Why Doing a Bad Job of Explaining Technical Concepts Hurts Our Credibility

Anne Janzer, Author of Writing To Be Understood (right) and Poornima Vijayashanker, founder of Femgineer (left)

Interview with Anne Janzer, Author of Writing To Be Understood

Confession time…

A few years ago when someone asked me to explain a technical concept and I couldn’t successfully get through to them or didn’t have time, I would send them this link. ;)

And it seemed funny the first couple of times I did it.

It wasn’t until someone did it to me that I realized how obnoxious it was. I eventually stopped asking for them for help, because I knew they weren’t very good at explaining things and didn’t have the patience to help me.

I also realized that I didn’t want to be like them. I needed to get better at explaining technical concepts. Ever since then, I’ve been on a quest to improve how I communicate technical concepts when I write and speak to people and audiences of varying levels.

Part of my discovery led to me Anne Janzer. Anne is a prolific author who has recently written a book called Writing To Be Understood: What Works And Why, and she’s also a cognitive science geek!

I sat down with Anne to debunk the misconception that if someone doesn’t understand a technical concept immediately, then it’s their fault. They’re too much of a layperson, and they should look it up. But it’s actually the explainer who needs to do a better job of explaining, and in today’s *Build* episode, we’ll explain why!

In next week’s episode, we’ll provide techniques on how you can get better at explaining technical concepts to a mixed audience or to a layperson.

As you watch today’s episode, you’ll learn the following:

  • Why people may not get our explanation
  • Why we assume our audience knows what we’re talking about
  • Why people on the receiving end of an explanation find the explainer to be less smart if the explanation cannot be easily understood
  • Why people are bad at explaining technical concepts using simple language
  • Why we have a tendency to over-explain
  • Why over-explaining isn’t helpful either and being brief is better
  • The three questions to ask yourself about your audience before you communicate with them

Listen to the episode on iTunes!

You can listen to this episode of Build on iTunes.

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Build is produced as a partnership between Femgineer and Pivotal Tracker. San Francisco video production by StartMotionMEDIA.

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