For all of us today we work in the business of translation.   Wait, what? 

All of us are in the business of translation whenever we need to influence those who don’t have the same technical expertise as us.

In a fast paced, global, matrixed, changing business world, evolving through the consequences of a pandemic, professionals everywhere continue to drive performance amidst rapid change and challenge.  We do so within a business climate which is trying to ‘fast start’ 2023, navigate a hybrid working environment, and where executives are trying to work out what their policy is regarding encouraging employees to come back to the office. 

What Often Happens Is:

  • The habit of ‘can you just put a few slides together?’ is a commonplace, reasonable, but often not useful request that comes our way when meetings appear on our calendar… and we readily comply.
  • The purpose of the conversation isn’t clear or agreed, in order to help manage the scope of the discussion.
  • The virtual environment has reinforced an over reliance on too many slides to enhance presenter confidence and bring more control to the way in which we manage the audience.
  • Slides are eye wateringly dense, data heavy and without a clear message.
  • Remote audiences can readily, openly and often disengage because either they don’t understand and/or care about what is being said.
  • Alternatively, our audience can gloriously – and without rancour – disrupt and derail what we wanted to communicate.

To Translate Our Expertise We Must:

  • Be far more rigorous around what the objective of what we share on slides.
  • Provide context immediately.  Why this topic?  Why now?  Why should your audience care about what you’re talking about?
  • Embrace this fact: credibility does not come from sharing lots of detail, data, expertise.  It comes from the clarity of your message.  This means we must learn to let go of the ‘the audience needs to know all this’.  Often, they don’t.
  • Organize your message first.  Notice this post is in 3 clear parts and reflects the narrative arc from storytelling.  It enables the message flow to be quickly, readily, easily understood.
  • Hone soundbites.  Soundbites have a personality, pack a punch, leap in the ear and stay there.  We want our audience to remember and repeat key phrases, soundbites, conclusions which resonate and persuade.
  • Translate our expertise means leaving out a lot of content.  This is uncomfortable and difficult to learn to do; and yet it is essential.  For your message to have clout, you need to leave the density out.  Get to the point, refine the essence, be more crisp.
  • Realise that ‘FYI’ is not influence.  That’s sharing information.  I’m talking about influence.  Your audience wants to know: what do you want from me?  We need to be absolutely unambiguous with our ask.

Everything about communication is easy – in theory.  However, doing this effectively, consistently and persuasively is not.  It takes focus, practice, experience, repetition, rigour.  We must assume that our colleagues believe we have expertise.  Our challenge is to hone the skills which translate that expertise into impact and influence.

Until next time….

Sarah Brummitt FFIPI AICI CIP