How to Talk Tech Without Sounding Like a Techie

By Dennis McCafferty  |  Posted 05-09-2014 Email Print this article Print

To gain buy-in for your IT proposals, you need to present them to people who have a wide range of backgrounds, interests and objectives. Which means you'll advance your cause far, far more readily if you don't come across as some tech guy who speaks in a barrage of arcane references and tired jargon. After all, it's critical here to establish a genuine connection with those whose support you seek. In the book, Supercommunicator: Explaining the Complicated So Anyone Can Understand (Amacom), author Frank J. Pietrucha explains that the digital revolution has resulted in a democratization of information and tech. In the process, general audiences have grown more tech-savvy. However, you will still lose them if you present your case in terms that only a highly certified technician or data scientist will understand. To avoid this, consider the following tips and best practices, as adapted from the book. Pietrucha is president of Definitive Communications, which works with scientists, engineers and business leaders in organizations such as NASA to make presentations clear. For more about the book, click here.

  • Get Out of Your Bubble

    You live, eat and breathe IT all day. But your audience doesn't. Drop the in-house lingo and esoteric references and use broad, accessible terms to say the same thing.
    Get Out of Your Bubble
  • Lose the Ego

    Don't stick to your internal language in an arrogant attempt to impress outsiders with your superior industry knowledge. You won't wow them. You'll alienate them.
    Lose the Ego
  • Never, Ever Serve Up Alphabet Soup

    Unless you intend to lull your audience into a coma, don't load your talking points with an abundance of tech acronyms.
    Never, Ever Serve Up Alphabet Soup
  • Learn About Them

    You'll instantly make connections if it's clear you know their goals, motivations and pain points. Researching and finding a trusted contact from the intended audience will help you here.
    Learn About Them
  • Make Cultural References That Resonate

    You can break down many walls by dropping references to movies, TV shows, music and other popular cultural subjects that audience members likely enjoy.
    Make Cultural References That Resonate
  • Clarify But Don't Over Simplify

    When you lend clarity, you build a greater understanding of your topic and why it matters. But don't insult people's intelligence by dumbing it down.
    Clarify But Don't Over Simplify
  • Edit Yourself

    Stick to active sentences and action verbs and avoid passive voice or weak "to be" verbs. Use shorter, punchier sentences.
    Edit Yourself
  • Fact Check Your Info

    You'll lose credibility if you deliver content that's discovered to be misleading or flat-out inaccurate. Review original source material closely to avoid this mistake.
    Fact Check Your Info
  • Keep It Current

    Similarly, your command of topic will be questioned if you quote from a 5-year-old industry survey to gain support for a brand tech initiative. Make sure everything is up-to-date.
    Keep It Current
  • Insert Humanity

    Sprinkle what you say with concrete stories about real people and problems, and how your initiative can help.
    Insert Humanity
  • Streamline the Narrative

    Remember that all tech stories should break down into this simple, organizational structure: Define the problem. Describe the solution. Summarize the impact.
    Streamline the Narrative
Dennis McCafferty is a freelance writer for Baseline Magazine.


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