Before I left the zoo, I went through an animal training course to become a certified animal trainer. There are different types of animal trainers including horse trainers, marine mammal trainers, dog trainers, and exotic animal trainers. All are in the same field, but specialize in training in different species of animals. While in the course, the instructor gave us an example that rang extremely familiar. He is a marine mammal trainer that was talking to a horse trainer and the horse trainer began talking in acronyms that sounded familiar, but were being used in an unfamiliar way.
All of these trainers have the same acronyms, but the acronyms mean different things to each of the trainers. The the instructor, also a marine mammal trainer, was extremely lost in this conversation because even though he was using familiar acronyms, the message wasn’t adding up. Even within the same field of work, it doesn’t mean that the acronyms will be understood because sometimes the same acronyms can take on new meanings in different companies or different specialties.
Here are 3 steps to avoid this type of misunderstandings.
1) Identify your audience- Before you begin to prepare a presentation you must know who you are talking to and assume a limited amount of basic understanding. During the preparation, be certain to start from the beginning and then grow on the information.
2) Identify technical lingo– While elaborating on your topic, be aware of how jargon and vocabulary is being used and how frequently. Slathering jargon on top of jargon isn’t going to help anybody, actually it will make it much worse. Once the audience is confused, they zone out.
If the audience is in the same industry or different speciality, it is easy to assume that the level of basic understanding is significantly higher than that of the general public. A technical presenter speaking to a technical audience still needs to at least say what the acronyms mean to ensure understanding, but wouldn’t need to elaborate. Taking this extra step will ensure that all are on the same page.
3) Set organization- The most confusing presentation is one with no logical organization. It is impossible to follow along with a topic that skips to a different direction at random. The audience will never be able to tie the pieces of a random presentation together to make sense of it, or if they could they just won’t. While in the development and planning phase, identify a logical organization to keep the audience understanding and the presenter on track.
4) Ask- If you are heading into complicated information, you may ask the audience “Does this make sense?”. Let them shake their heads yes or no. Some audiences will stare at you blankly without an answer, but a good presenter can use a gut feeling and listene to body language to know if explaining again is necessary.