Tech talk for non-techies

If you’re in the technology business, be careful how you talk to business people or consumers who might use your products or services. You may have spent months to develop and launch a new solution. It may be a roaring success in every way from your IT team’s point of view. But your announcement may be met with yawns or blank stares when you take it to your intended users. Not the outcome you were hoping for.

How do you make sure you communicate technology clearly and effectively to non-techies? The key is to try different ways to get your messages across. Here are 5 quick tips:

  1. Focus on benefits, not features. Why does this matter to your reader? How will it make their lives better? For instance, if your audience is financial, they’ll want to know how your solution can save time and money or improve productivity. They may also be interested to know what it will cost the organization if they don’t adopt the solution. Business readers or consumers won’t be interested in all the finer details that might excite the hearts of a true techie.
  2. Watch your jargon. Technical terms offer a convenient shorthand for people in the know. But to those outside information technology (IT), it’s like an unfamiliar language. So, avoid technical terms if you can. Instead, take the time to explain what your solutions do in clear language. Or, if this isn’t possible, give readers a glossary or define the technical terms you need as you go along. Whatever you do, don’t make them feel they need to take out a dictionary to understand you. They probably won’t bother.
  3. Explain things from the reader’s point of view. For example, don’t say things like “The software will . . .” Instead, use phrases like “The user will . . .” Or, even better, use the pronoun “you” or “your users.” This gives your text a much more personal tone.
  4. Tell a great story or use an example or analogy. It’s a proven principle among educators that people learn better when you connect new concepts to things they know already. For instance, to explain the safety of their particle accelerators, Fermilab in the United States explained the energy involved wouldn’t be strong enough to knock over a bowling pin. Stories and analogies are great tools for explaining complicated concepts or benefits.
  5. Use visuals. They can grab your reader and pull them into your content – especially if they are visual learners, which about 65% of people are. That’s likely why Instagram, Tumblr and Pinterest remain among the fastest growing forms of social media today. Even Statistics Canada now asks you if you’re a visual learner when you visit their web site – and pops up some beautiful pie charts to get your attention.

Whatever you do, don’t just simply repeat the same thing over and over. If they didn’t understand you the first time, they won’t likely hear you on the 2nd, 3rd or 4th time around. Your reader will simply stop listening — and you’ll lose the opportunity to tell them about a great innovation that could solve their business problems.

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