Share LIFE, not just DATA
I facilitated a communication training for technical professionals a few weeks ago with ten participants, most of whom were engineers. It was the first time I met this group. I started by polling a question. I asked the ten participants, “from the audience’s perspective, when viewing a technical presentation, is it more important to you that one, the speaker states the technical information clearly and organized, or, two, it’s more important that the speaker connects to your values.
The answer they started to chime in with was, “it depends on the information presented.” However, that wasn’t a choice. After “noodling” this question for a minute or so, nine out of ten answered that they believe it’s more important that the speaker connects to their values.
I then polled the same question in reverse. I asked the ten participants, “when you prepare for a technical presentation, what do you focus on most, clarity and organization of your message, or connecting to the audience’s values? They started to chuckle and shake their heads. Nine out of ten said they focused most of their preparation on clarity and organization.
I had a few descending voices that stated that communicating information in a clear and organized way is connected to their values. So I responded with, “if five engineers gave the same presentation and they all delivered their technical information in a clear and organized way, you’d trust one of them over the other four. Why? Because that one person, for whatever reason, connected to your values more than the other four.”
One might think that the main takeaway would be to prepare for technical preparations as if you were in the audience. But, unfortunately, this is only sometimes true, as you need to prepare your material to how you believe the audience will be most receptive to your message and make adjustments accordingly.
Your information is vital. If it weren’t, there’d be no need to say it. It’s crucial to be as clear and organized as possible, or you will lose your audience’s attention, especially when delivering technical information. However, do all you can to communicate your message via your humanity and not just the data. Sharing your humanity doesn’t mean sharing inappropriate personal information. It’s more straightforward. Speak TO your audience and not AT your audience. When speaking, be present and make a concerted effort to connect to your audience, and be more curious about your audience than yourself, which is the prerequisite for effective active listening. There’s more, quite a bit more, but these few points are a good start.
Last point: The technical information you deliver unto itself likely has significant meaning to your audience. The qualitative impact the technical information has on your audience has all to do with the spirit in which you provide it.
Remember to share LIFE, not just DATA.