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Communicating Expertise – Mission Impossible?

lääkäriA foreign policy expert discussing the current situation on the 10 o’clock news.
A car dealer speaking with a potential buyer.
A lawyer discussing the implications of layoffs with an HR manager.
A computer person describing the problems with my computer.
A doctor speaking with a patient.
A communications consultant describing his business to a CEO.
All of these speakers have a few things in common. First, they know a lot about the subject at hand. Second, they really want their audience to learn something. And third, their listeners are hoping to understand.

When we prepare to speak, whether it’s a full-on presentation or a project update with our boss, we have a number of decisions to make. Do I go crazy with detail? Do I give a broad overview and encourage questions? Can I use my professional jargon or do I need to keep my vocabulary general? Do visuals help get the message across?

All of these questions are answered by thinking about the listeners. It seems obvious, doesn’t it? But when I go to conferences or hear people talk about bad communication situations, it’s clear that many people who should – and probably do – know better, do a poor job of communicating their expertise.

If it’s so obvious, why do so many smart people get it wrong? Maybe they’re under time pressure, maybe they’re lazy. Except in a few rare occasions, I don’t think the problem is that the expert doesn’t want their listener to understand.

What do you do to make sure that your listener gets your message?

How often do we hear an expert talking about their area and feel like we need a translator? Maybe they are speaking at a conference where most of the audience members are experts in similar fields, but not in their field. Maybe they are foreign policy experts discussing the current situation on the 10 o’clock news.

In any case, the true expert is able to get the message across quickly and simply.

Deron Fuller


Deron Fuller is an international communications consultant, who works and lives in Finland.



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