For several years, I worked in the medical devices industry as a product development engineer. I often had to make presentations to my coworkers about what I was working on. It wouldn’t be uncommon for them to know nothing about my work. I had to find a way to make it understandable to them. Here are 3 tips for speaking to people who are not in your field about your field.
- Explain field-specific terms
Especially if your field is chock full of technical terms not commonly known by the general public, it’s important to explain what you’re trying to convey. For instance, I used to work with osteoblasts. I couldn’t just keep repeating osteoblasts over and over again and expect my coworkers to know what they were. I had to explain what they were (osteoblasts are the cells in our body that make bone, by the way). If you’re able to provide a handout with definitions of terms, even better.
- Use visuals
Whether you use tables, graphs, or even cartoons, visually being able to represent what you’re talking about is always helpful, specifically to those who don’t know your field well. The following graphic is a great representation of osteoblasts. With time, tiny projections from an osteoblast protrude outwards and connect with other osteoblasts, forming a bone matrix (yeah, I know I’m nerdy). The graphic really helps people visualize what an osteoblast’s function. Visuals also break up all the text, which an audience always appreciates.
- Be open to feedback
There may be times when you think that something is clear when it’s not. How do you know when things aren’t clear? When your audience doesn’t understand. If they don’t understand, you could’ve presented better. Be willing to accept constructive criticism. Seek it out even. It’ll only make your presentations more effective.