Communication skills

Clear communication: how to explain difficult concepts

- August 9, 2007 2 MIN READ

Do you ever struggle when trying to explain difficult concepts? Clear communication is important in business, but due to the different experiences and backgrounds of each of your clients, it is not always easy.

I recently facilitated a business planning workshop that involved blueprinting a marketing plan for a national program. We’d put together the target market, product description, delivery structure and a financial model. During the marketing discussion, I noticed several blank faces were saying ‘please explain?’

I reasoned that this was okay as the audience was primarily from an academic background and marketing was not their first language. But I needed to work out how to use clear communication to get the concept across to them in the fastest possible way.

A few days earlier, I’d been sorting out a communications plan for a new client, and was once again struggling with how to express my ideas to them when marketing was not their first language.

At that point, I realised that I was treading the same planning path as I had many times before and needed to create a system for myself and my clients that was going to crack this nut once and for all.

In the past, I’ve spent many hours on proposals, convinced that making each one different was part of my special non-generic approach.

After some serious introspection about my business and its direction over recent times, I’ve realised that although the ideas in the proposals and documents need to be unique, the way I put them together doesn’t.

So, I spread open all my marketing references, market planning guides, business plan templates and spreadsheets on my desk and looked at them until a new approach sprang to mind.

Want more articles like this? Check out the  communication skills section.

Out of this process, I created a two-part approach to my clear communication plan. This involved a strategic plan rationale, which set out the major programs of work and their objectives, as well as a spreadsheet matrix plotting the programs against the month of the year. The file also contained the budget, the status of each program, contacts information, the production timeline and any other details that added the meat to the plan.

Instantly, I had a one-file matrix with loads of useful information, and a rationale document to accompany it.

The test? Roll forward to the workshop: I road-tested the idea as an instant ‘vox-pop’ on the effectiveness of the approach. Could I make fifteen blank faces understand marketing?

To see if I could make fifteen blank faces understand marketing, I shared my own matrix with them. I figured it was the most honest way to show that I endorse my own product.

I won’t be so bold as to say that everyone’s light went on instantly, but I do know that the conversation at that point became much more focused around deliverables and what was possible in a given timeframe.

If I hadn’t got frustrated with my own approach earlier, I may not have twigged that the group’s frustration was the same, but from a different angle. Mine was from having too many marketing languages, where as theirs was not having one at all.

I wonder what we could all do in our own businesses to help us have clear communication and be able to explain difficult concepts to our clients? Let me know what has worked for you by posting a comment.

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  • Andrew Caska

    Caska IP Patent Attorneys

    'Flying Solo opened up so many doors for us - I honestly don't know where I'd be without it"