The martech landscape is becoming an increasingly complex jungle. Making sense of martech-related topics, often involving new technologies and data, requires coordination among experts with different backgrounds. How can these experts best leverage one another to make sense of data, technology and process to positively affect business decisions and customer experiences? The key lies in giving effective explanations.
When collaborating with different stakeholders, subject matter experts often need to provide brief lessons to those from different professional backgrounds. These lessons are useful for contextualizing information, but it can be easy to accidentally overwhelm your audience when the topic is complex. We forget that what is familiar to us is novel to others.
And there is a lot of novel material out there. In early 2020, there were more than 8,000 martech solutions, and one in five of these were created within the last year. With so much new information available, it’s important to make navigating this information as easy as possible. A subject matter expert serves as a local field guide who escorts others through the jungle of their domain.
When you are serving as a field guide, the difficulty your audience faces while navigating a new topic is directly correlated with how effectively you communicate. Explain things well, and their journey becomes easier. Explain things poorly, and they will become lost. Below are five strategies for more effective explanations.
- A good field guide avoids detours. Filter out irrelevant information so your audience doesn’t have to. Remember, identifying what is relevant is a lot harder for someone who is unfamiliar with the topic.
- Avoid jargon when possible. If using technical terms is necessary, explain what the terms mean.
- Being brief means there is less information your audience must process.
- A good field guide doesn’t leave the group behind. Give the audience time to process the information you are conveying.
- Be especially mindful of your talking speed when nervous or excited, such as when presenting in front of a large group. This tends to make people speed up.
- Thinking concretely is easier than thinking abstractly.
- New concepts are easier to understand if they are related to something with which your audience is already familiar.
- An example is the field guide analogy used in this article.
Incorporate Visuals Where Appropriate
- A good field guide brings a map. Some information is easier to convey graphically than verbally.
- Many psychologists believe that humans have two separate mental channels for processing auditory and visual information. Splitting information across these channels reduces cognitive load.
Check in Often – “Does that make sense?”
- A good field guide pays attention to how the group is doing. If the setting is appropriate, ask your audience questions like “Does that make sense?” after explaining different chunks of information. This facilitates active listening, and it encourages people to speak up if they don’t understand.
- Checking in with the audience provides natural breaks in the conversation. Even if they don’t have questions, it helps with organically slowing down the pace.
- Checking in frequently supports differences in communication styles across diverse audience members.
Incorporating these will allow you to become a more skilled communicator, which increases your value in an organization by allowing others to better leverage your knowledge. While conceptually simple, these strategies require a conscious effort to implement, and they aren’t always easy. For example, I spent almost as much time removing words from this article as I did adding them. However, the fruits of these efforts are well worth it. As the martech jungle becomes increasingly dense, having good field guides is critical to staying ahead in the race.
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