How to Communicate Complex Topics
Within every organization, certain objectives need to be met and employees need to be on board to meet these objectives. Effectively communicating complex topics is key to getting employees fully on board.
You may need to explain new sales and marketing strategies to your team or clarify the rationale behind new protocols for quality and product/service delivery. Plans for product development may need clarification. Or perhaps accounting and technology procedures need to be explained to new staff. Maybe management wants to share exciting news about future developments, or human resources has come up with vital health and safety guidelines.
Whatever business area needs illumination you need to know how to communicate the intricate details without overexerting employees and boring them with complicated information.
Communication is best when complex topics are explained in very clear and simple terms. But how does one do that? In short: Keep it simple, know your subject, know your audience and then explain step by step, giving relevant examples.
Here is how we can help employees understand complex topics:
Einstein famously said: “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough”. Expertise comes to nothing if the expert is unable to communicate his knowledge to his audience. Good effective simplification involves subject knowledge, audience knowledge and careful planning. Ensure that you simplify complicated concepts so that employees with less knowledge can easily understand.
The starting point is definitely to know your audience as their existing knowledge will determine which knowledge you can next pass on to them. Making things too simple will be an insult to their intelligence. But if you overestimate their level of knowledge you will confuse or bore them.
For example, make sure that your audience understands the vocabulary that you want to use in the explanation. Terminology, that you suspect some may have difficulty with, needs to be simplified and explained. It may be beneficial to first explain these terms before you start explaining the core content.
Explaining complex concepts can be likened to eating a huge hamburger. If you are going to put it all in your mouth at once it will be very difficult, if not impossible, to eat the hamburger. If you take it one bite at a time you will not only manage it easily but also enjoy the meal! And that is how any explanation needs to be approached: break it down into small manageable chunks so that your audience can better understand and at the same time enjoy the experience. This requires careful planning!
1. Tell a story
A story can often shed more light on the concept that you aim to explain by instantly engaging the audience. A story also lends itself to placing the listener in the middle of the events shared in the story. One’s imagination causes one to experience the events in the story so that one connects on a deeper level and thereby understands more profoundly.
2. Do it step by step.
A step-by-step approach is very effective in explaining something, especially when it comes to explaining a process or explaining how a concept is used in practice. Again, stories lend themselves to step-by-step approaches as by definition stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end.
3. Give examples
Understanding is boosted when an unfamiliar concept is explained by comparing it to a familiar concept. Comparing new concepts to familiar ones can effectively be illustrated with an example. So, determine the essence of what you want to share with your audience. Then think of a real-life example that will simplify the message that you want to communicate.
4. Specify problems & solutions
Another approach to creating simple explanations is to specify the problem. Then explain the solution. For example, if you want to introduce new software to employees, start by focussing on current difficulties that employees may experience and then go on to show how the new software solves these issues. Again, this is a typical storytelling approach, where there is a dilemma that the protagonist has to overcome…
Effective communication is key! Simplify complex topics to get everyone in your team on the same page!