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How to Communicate Tech Ideas to a Non-Tech Audience

February 5, 2024

As technology evolves, so does the need to communicate technical ideas to non-tech audience.

In the past, technical ideas were mainly shared and discussed within the walls of the tech department, but that’s no longer the case. With the IT and programming departments moving closer to the center of business strategies, engineers and developers are now faced with the situation where they have to convey complex technical concepts to an audience with limited technical knowledge.

The ability to clearly communicate complex tech ideas to a wide range of stakeholders with different areas of expertise is rising in necessity.

The success of your project depends on your ability to explain what the technology in question is, how it works and why it will benefit your audience. Be clear on problem areas and expected outcomes while keeping your audience’s background and level of technical knowledge in mind. But it’s easier said than done.

So, how does a technical professional communicate technical ideas to a non-tech audience?

In this article, we’ve compelled a list of five strategies that will help engineers, IT workers, and other technical professionals communicate their ideas to an audience with limited technical knowledge in a clear and compelling manner, making the conversation fun, easy, and memorable.

1. Determine who your audience is

Before you start crafting your technical presentation, determine who your target audience is. Do they have a technical background? What is their area of expertise? Do they work in a creative field? Finding answers to these questions will help tailor your presentation according to your audience’s level of technical knowledge and expertise without overwhelming them with the information they might already know. However, reviewing the things your audience might already be familiar with can be a great starting point, gradually introducing how they fit with the new concepts.

In cases where your target audience has different levels of expertise, strive for a thoughtful balance between complex technical concepts and basic information. Finding the right level of information your audience should be exposed to takes time and practice. By carefully observing your audience’s reactions and facial expressions, you’ll understand when to move on and when to elaborate on a certain point.

2. Use visual content to explain technical concepts

Visualizing technical concepts helps the audience grasp the information quicker, making it easier to recall certain concepts. A human brain needs about 13 milliseconds to process an image. Visual data gets processed with an incredible speed as soon as the visual output hits the retina, extracting meaning from the presented images. Patterns, shapes, and colors not only immediately catch our attention but also keep our focus for longer periods of time.

Therefore, consider communicating technical concepts with flowcharts, simple maps, or other visual elements, clarifying specific points with illustrations to help the audience wrap their heads around your subject.

3. Adjust your tone and language

Considering that you’re trying to explain technical concepts to a non-tech audience, you should take into account their familiarity with the specific terminology. Instead of bombarding the audience with specialized words, opt-in for easier synonyms, clear definitions, and examples to illustrate the point you’re trying to make.

Moreover, consider having a conversational tone when presenting. That will allow you to create a friendly and relaxed environment around your subject, helping the conversations flow naturally and making people feel more integrated into the topic. Encourage questions to boost discussions around critical points to see whether the audience understood the material, paying close attention to the social and facial cues.

4. Avoid using technical jargon

Although the tech industry has its fair share of technical jargon, specific terminology might disengage the less tech-savvy listeners.

As you proceed with your topic, avoid using technical jargon whenever possible. Technical jargon may confuse your audience, creating missing gaps and holes in the material you’ve provided. However, if you use technical jargon to emphasize some points, make sure its meaning is clear to the audience. For example, when you say MTTR, are you talking about the mean time to resolve? Or mean time to respond? Provide necessary clarification to ensure your audience gets the intended meaning.

5. Focus on the context and impact

Avoid getting too carried away with technical details, where the audience loses track of thought, by focusing more on the why and less on the how. The how addresses technical specifics an average person might not be familiar with whereas why provides a broader context of the information you share, driving more focus on the impact.

For example, let’s say you’re suggesting the adoption of new suppressing, patching, and monitoring protocols for your community. You should draw their attention to the fact that the cost of cybercrime globally is expected to rise to 6 trillion dollars by the end of 2022, with a potential to increase even further to 10.5 trillion dollars in 2025, rather than talk about how sophisticated the latest authentication technology is.

By establishing a link between your initiative and a pain point your audience cares about, you’ll be able to create a more significant impact as you demonstrate your understanding of their needs, backing it up with actual data.

Remember, explaining technology in simple terms takes practice

Making technical concepts accessible and comprehendible for the general population will take some work. By using any of the tips we mentioned above, you’ll be able to let the conversations flow naturally around your subject, encouraging questions and fueling discussions through the diversity of opinions. As a result, these tips can help improve efficiency, making people feel more integrated into the topic.

It gets even more challenging to pitch to an audience that takes your effort for granted, providing few opportunities for professional growth.

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