Over Your Audiences Heads

You might know by now that I worked at the local zoo for five years. It was an interesting experience, which propelled me to be a presentation coach. While at the zoo, my primary job was to educate about animal adaptations and environmental concerns. It was not written in the job description to translate the biological information into analogies that the public understood, but that came with the territory. Thus I was an interpreter, literally translating animal adaptations in order to explain their value to the audience regardless of age and education level. My time at the zoo elapsed, but I have retained the concepts needed to adjust my message to a basic level.

Many industries, especially those technical industries, use heavy jargon, acronyms, and high-level vocabulary in their everyday conversations with colleagues. When it is time to convey that knowledge to people outside of the industry, they resort back to their everyday frame of reference leaving the audience in the dark while the information goes straight over their heads “VROOM…”.

It isn’t common knowledge or at least not commonly thought about that the audience is the reason for giving the presentation in the first place. The presenters job in this perspective is to educate the audience, unfortunately, you can’t do that if you are speaking a different language entirely, thus the need for translating is of the utmost importance.

When planning a technical presentation or demonstration, be sure to limit the number of points to an absolute minimum. Use the time to explain thoroughly the few points you retain and begin at the basics. Practice with a non-technical person such as your executive assistant, spouse, or non-industry friend.

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