Tricks to translate techspeak into plainspeak and wow your audience

Technology has made our lives simpler, but explaining technology to a lay person is still the most difficult thing to do. If you’re the type who reads the manual, or likes to trouble shoot your own laptop or phone issues, you know how difficult it is to understand what’s the issue.

Building intuitive systems that allow users to instinctively know what to do has made enormous progress. However, when it comes to explaining what technology does, every SaaS or engineering company struggles to jump from techspeak to plainspeak. While your internal technology team may be clued into the vocabulary and understand the end goal, it’s important to communicate the vision to other parts of the organization, to motivate them about the great difference they are making in the world. Similarly, many business decision makers, investors or partners may not speak tech, but need to be inspired by your product or technology. In the age of social media, building a brand is about sharing your story with the world, but this, too, needs to be done in plainspeak.

How do you go about this breaking down your deeply technical work, to explain what you do, but yet not oversimplify it? Here’s a few tricks I’ve picked up on the way, being an English literature graduate that has worked with technology teams. These tricks also help writers who have had many a befuddling conversation with a technical subject matter expert, who is enthusiastic about their work, but only talks technology.

  1. Zoom out or zoom in

Much like taking a photograph, it’s important to get the whole picture, or context. What helps is to understand where the audience is in their understanding of the topic, and where the technology expert is speaking from. It’s always best to start with the context, or the problem that you are trying to solve, rather than the technology itself. Describing the environment around the technology, what challenges are probably being experienced creates an instant empathy with the audience and primes them to hear more about the solution. How does the zoom in or zoom out technique help? When you understand that your audience is more technically savvy, zoom in and skip the details of the wider context, getting more to the heart of the problem and the technology. If your audience is more general, zoom out and describe the context more, before leading them to the technology solution.

  1. Answer the So What?

When I’ve conversed with technology experts and engineers, they often are very excited about the machinery or the technology they are working with. Often, this is only exciting to other engineers, and flies past the heads of anyone else, failing to impress. The So What? Tool allows you to progress further, until you reach a WOW. Let me explain. The team has developed an API. So what? It connects the app to the core banking system. So what? So, when you install a payment app on your phone, the app talks directly to the banking system where the data you provided to open your account is directly accessed by the payment app. So what? So, you don’t have to take a day off, go to the bank, fill out documents, provide copies of your ID proof, and only then be able to use the payment app! That’s the WOW, the convenience that users have from their mobile phones, to be able to download a payment app and start using it immediately – because the rest of the work has been done by an API.

  1. Explain this to your 7-year-old / grandma

This technique is self-explanatory, but effective because it simplifies your technology thinking, forcing you to think from the point of view of your audience, and match their understanding. If you were to explain the cloud to your 7-year-old or grandma (for those who don’t have kids), how would you do it? I actually googled this one, and even these examples that surfaced don’t really do it well.

Cloud computing is nothing but a service provider that anyone can take on rent without owning their own space like server, storage, database, and software. 

In this example above, there are many terms to explain which could lead to questions from your grandma or 7-year-old – what is a service provider, is the space in the sky? What is a serve? Is a storage like our pantry? You see where this goes. I will leave you with this challenge.

Explaining technology can be challenging but also greatly validating to see your technically complicated work being appreciated for the massive impact that it has. Communications teams and writers who work with technology can use these tricks to learn more from talented technology experts and create fascinating stories of how their companies are making the world a better place. Because that’s the end objective, to share the enthusiasm and conviction you have in your company with the rest of the world, so that they believe in the company.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Nandini Naik
Nandini Naik

Nandini is co-founder of BlueInk Content, pursuing the ideal and inspiring, following her conviction that original thought and powerful stories can move the world. She writes to learn about herself and the world - about writing and communications, family, food and fun, nostalgia, and people who inspire her.

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