The hardest thing for any subject matter expert (SME) to do is to explain his or her area of expertise in simple and clear ways. When we are “in” it, when we are living the topic every day, and when we know a lot about it, it is really hard to distance yourself from it and make it simple. When you are in it, everything seems important, and since you understand every nuance, natural human reaction is to want to explain that nuance.
But for people who don’t know as much about your topic as you do (which most of the time is MOST of the human race), they are less interested in the nuance and the minute details of your topic. Most often, what is most valuable to the non-SME is to be told the high level, the most important, the most relevant to them aspects of your topic.
In other words, don’t communicate what you think is most valuable. Communicate what the audience will think is most valuable. The concept of “value” is a movable feast. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, as the old saying goes. Just because you think it is important, does not mean that I will.
We spend a lot of time working with clients on how to speak more clearly and powerfully. And one of our most critical techniques is to try to understand value from the perspective of other people in the conversation, and then speak to that value. Don’t speak to your sense of value unless you are sure that others in the room see the same value that you do.
And if you don’t think they see any value, then you have a different challenge. Persuade them to value it along with you, or move on to another topic entirely.
The point here today is consistent with a frequent point we make here. Great communication requires lots of skills. But it also requires the emotional intelligence to understand what other people think and care about. We’re not advocating pandering. We are advocating demonstrations of respect and the empathy to consider what other people think.
At the heart of all great business communication is a simple concept… Respect.
Have a great day.