In this awesome TedGlobal presentation, Melissa Marshall shares a simple and elegant formula for more effective communication between scientists and engineers and, um, the rest of us. I encourage you to watch the short talk and won't spoil the fun by spilling the beans on the formula itself.
However... I'll say that her points apply to the science community, as well as, technical folks in a wide array of disciplines-- information technology and anything related to the cloud, health and bleh-insurance, facilities and infrastructure, and just about anything else you can think of that truly required understanding calculus and not just doing the minimum to pass.
In working with technical clients to come up with content and communications that resonate beyond their internal meetings with each other, there are two really, key things.
- In my experience, we must fiercely and unrelentingly tie the purpose and benefits back to something any general smart person can understand. This isn't "dumb-ing it down." That's a poke in the eye that doesn't get conversations off on the right foot. Instead, there is some important underlying purpose for why technical folks are doing the important work that they are. What is that?
- The second is helping manage the level of detail. Highly technical folks often can't actually tell the difference between a headline and a detail. They're too close to their work to effectively differentiate. To help here, I work with clients to outline all of important thoughts they want to share. After a first pass to streamline and sort everything into the right buckets, you can then have a more objective conversation about what is appropriate to share. For most general audiences, content should only be at the highest (most outdented) level and include 5-6 points. And maybe, just maybe, you can go one level down for a new program pitch or Congressional hearing. All the rest can be saved for questions or just admired in the notes.
Big hugs to all the science and techie types out there. We love ya... we just don't always understand ya.