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

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@poornimaPoornima Vijayashanker

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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