In times of disruption, information can be very helpful. But only if it is shared clearly and structured in a memorable way that captures and retains attention. Especially if you are communicating through a computer screen.
You need to put audiences first.
As many businesses and institutions pivot to remote work including video conference calls, below are some general tips that I give to my clients. These are especially important for experts engaging non-experts.
When you are engaging with audiences outside of your speciality, that information can be presented more clearly by consciously prioritizing three components of messaging: word choice, narrative structure, and visual / slide design.
1. Use words that your audience finds familiar.
Swap out technical terms for more immediately clear phrases. This might increase your word count, but that’s better than a short message that’s only clear to a small number of specialists.
2. Open with the central piece of information.
Lead with the captivating information first. Especially when you are engaging audiences outside of your specialty:
- Here’s the take-home;
- Here’s some background on why;
- So here’s the take home again;
- Now here’s what we can do given this take-home message.
This doubly helps your audience: open with what they need to remember, give some context, then repeat the important information, and invite further discussion. Memorable and engaging.**
3. Design slides that show the audience where to look without telling them where to look.
Clear slides are especially vital if you are presenting through a computer screen:
- show only 1-6 words per slide;
- use arrows and circles to call attention to the important information in graphs or complex images;
- do not expect that everyone will see your cursor movement.
Tell everyone that you will send a more detailed version afterwards. That way you can inform in the moment, then have productive feedback and discussion moving forward.
We are all in this together. Stay safe and healthy out there.
**Note: I followed my own advice with this post. My opening paragraph appeals to “share information clearly.” Then at the beginning of the advice section I say “When you are engaging with audiences outside of your specialty …” then I repeat that exact phrase in sub-section 2 to lead with the take-home message.