Technology is often blamed for a lack of effective communication. My goal is to give you the tools and knowledge to help you become the benchmark for professionalism.
It’s not what you DO, it’s what you DON’T do – Series: Part 4

It’s not what you DO, it’s what you DON’T do – Series: Part 4

I’m a fan of coffee. It’s something that kick starts my day, and I’m lost without my daily dose of caffeine to get me moving. I can brew myself a cup or go to a variety of coffee shops nearby to order a tasty beverage. I know where to go, how to order my coffee, and the amount I need to get my mind in gear. But, this may come as a shock to you, I have yet to walk into my local auto parts store and demand they brew me a nice cup o’ joe.

Have I gone off the deep end? Why am I talking about ordering coffee in an auto parts store? Wait, I must be lacking that delicious drink and the consciousness it delivers so I’m completely scatter brained. No, that’s not it. It is a strange and unconventional way to introduce another important set of points in my series.

Know Your Audience

In business, it’s often expected that you deliver some kind of message or information to other people. You have knowledge that needs to be transferred to someone else, and it’s important they receive it. How do you ensure maximum participation and acceptance of your message? It’s fairly simple: communicate at the appropriate level. Obvious statement? Sure, but not every person understands what that statement means. It means you can’t go into every meeting the same way and expect amazing results.

When you prepare for a meeting sale, training, whatever, you need to find out some information about your audience. Are you going to speak primarily to system administrators? Help desk personnel? C-level executives? End users? These people have different expectations. Your twenty-five minute, non-technical, sales pitch doesn’t mean anything to a system administrator whose primary job is highly technical. Telling end users and help desk personnel how much money your product will save by allowing them to perform self-service actions won’t help you close a sale. Ultimately, don’t forget who you are talking to!

This happens more often than you think. I’m constantly in situations where the speaker is talking about something they find interesting but has no practical application for their audience. They don’t know, or don’t care, who is in the room. This lack of knowledge is a huge mistake! Going back to the introduction, you’re not going to order coffee at an auto parts store. So why deliver the wrong type of message to your audience?

Superiority Complex

I’ve also seen a demonstrator use the correct topic for their audience, but deliver the message completely wrong. I’m not talking about inaccurate information either. The demonstrator decides they want to prove “how smart they are” by talking over their audiences’ head. Again, you’re not delivering the right message when this happens.

I have always found it best to let your audience help you deliver the right message. Start with common ground and continually test for comprehension as you progress. When you reach a point where something may be above their understanding, either help them to understand or dial back the complexity. This concept is a very small but important point, don’t speak above the audience.

Let’s go through a short scenario:

John: I’m going to talk about SSO today. When you use our portal we register each app with SAML. You can click on these icons and be taken directly to the appropriate site. So far so good?

Frank: Yes, this is looking exactly like what we’re interested in.

John: Great. Next we’re going to see how our product distinguishes itself. Let’s go into the administrative portal and take a look at BAQR. We see that by using FDMA, we can approve each request using our custom TDQ and RQM. When the database makes a call to the custom LNF, we see that each of the tiles will change according to the group we’ve assigned in our SNA.

Frank: Umm… That’s a lot of alphabet soup. Can you explain a few of those terms, please?

John: Yeah, not a problem. I’d be glad to do that. See, here over in the LHN, we do a query for the GPN. By looking at the relative association for each IDQ, we can determine that Sally should have access to the app on her login page. Our technology is so far ahead of the competitors because we can do these things in real time… *and are you still reading this?

We see that it started out ok; Frank confirmed understanding a couple of times but then didn’t actually listen to John. Frank still went on his rant about random acronyms that didn’t help John receive the message. Have you ever been in a situation like this? The demonstrator starts throwing out “custom” acronyms that are really just the same general principle as the competitor, but are used in a way to make themselves sound impressive. The demonstrator starts to talk at a level above you because they want you to be amazed by these wonderful terms and ideas they’re throwing at you.

Simple, yet Effective

I’m not sure about you, but I’d rather the demonstrator left out all the acronyms and showed me a solution that truly amazes me. The products and solutions that I’ve fallen in love with over the years have a strong message, tailored to the audience. They don’t hide behind complex terms, use demonstrators that have a superiority complex, or waste time with useless information.

If you’re going to give a demo to someone, learn that person’s job (at least from a high level). Know what that audience member does and how you can make their job easier. Knowing these keys pieces of information enables us to deliver a highly effective message. Don’t ignore your audience’s background or level of understanding. Let’s get out there and show people we can demo like a pro!