If your audience doesn’t understand you, they can’t be persuaded by you – TALLcommunication

26 Jun

Make it Understandable

If your audience doesn’t understand you, they can’t be persuaded by you. To be an effective communicator, you’ve first got to be a clear communicator. To be a clear communicator, you must use words, phrases, examples, and visuals that are understandable, and you’ve got to deliver them at a pace that the audience can absorb.

How can you do this? Let us count some ways…

#1: Use plain language.

Use words that your audience uses. Avoid technical jargon that your audience (or a portion of your audience) isn’t familiar with.

Favor short words and phrases over long and convoluted counterparts. Don’t imitate the language you might find in a legal transcript or an academic paper. Technical language is necessary for those contexts, but it isn’t helpful in a conversation or presentation.

Note that “plain” language doesn’t mean “boring” language. Use vivid and descriptive language where appropriate.

#2: Be explicit.

“To be an effectivecommunicator, you’ve first got to be a clear communicator.”

Your audience should not need a decoder ring to figure out your message. It should be obvious. Spell it out if necessary. Make sure you are not misinterpreted.

It is particularly important to make the connection between premises and conclusions explicit. Because is a magic word for this purpose:  “Because premise Aand premise B, we can see that conclusion must be true.

If your arguments involve more than a couple premises, be sure your audience sees the relationship between them. “And these five advantages — capital costs, scheduling, inventory control, marketing, and employee satisfaction — together make this a winning proposal.

#3: Trace sequences or processes in order.

To help your audience understand a sequence or process, march through the steps or phases in a meaningful order, usually sequential. If you jump around the steps out of order, your audience will be confused.

As the number of steps increases, so does the need to use a diagram for clarity.

#4: Use diagrams.

Carefully crafted and focused diagrams almost always enhance the understandability of your arguments. It doesn’t matter if you draw in PowerPoint, on a white board, or on the back of a napkin — it only matters that you clarify concepts for your audience.

But, be careful not to introduce an unnecessarily complex diagram. In the worst case, a busy diagram or one with lots of irrelevant details will frustrate your audience and diminish your understandability.

#5: Use charts.

Like diagrams, a carefully crafted chart or graph will speak volumes and clarify a previously fuzzy relationship.

Remember the warning about unnecessary complexity applies to charts too.

#6: Use progressive disclosure.

Suppose the diagram (or chart) which best explains the concepts is a complex one. What then?

“It doesn’t matter if you draw in PowerPoint, on a white board, or on the back of a napkin — it only matters that you clarify concepts for your audience.”

In nearly all cases, it should be possible to use progressive disclosure. This means that you build up the entire diagram (or chart) progressively as a series of chunks, revealing only a part of the overall diagram at a time. If you are drawing the diagram as you speak, you are inherently using progressive disclosure. (You draw a few lines, explain what you’ve drawn, draw a few more, explain again, and repeat.) This is easy to do with PowerPoint too.

#7: Use comparisons, analogies, and metaphors.

Whenever you introduce new concepts, search for an appropriate analogy which helps the audience understand the new concept in terms of how they already understand the old one.

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