Have you ever tried to have a conversation around technology with a senior executive in your organization and you can’t help but notice that their eyes have seemed to glaze over? Ever tried to introduce a new IT idea to your CEO and they look at you like you’re speaking Greek? If you have, you may have been engaging in a little too much “Tech Talk”.
The Key to Talking Tech
It’s no secret that a lot of IT people have a bad habit of talking tech to non-IT people. The key to “talking tech” is knowing when to do it and when not to. In a group of like-minded IT people, of course, you can feel free to “speak geek” to your heart’s content. But when you’re trying to get buy-in from senior executives who most likely aren’t as technologically savvy as you are, it’s very important to put things into their language.
4 Tips on Talking Tech to non-IT People
So how can you make sure that your “tech talk” is getting through to the non-IT people you’re speaking to? Here are four key tips on how to get your point across without lapsing into “geek-speak”:
Tip #1: When explaining new technology, put it in the point of view of the user.
- The Scenario: You have been noticing that your organization’s employees seem to be having trouble collaborating with each other on various projects. You know that Microsoft Office 365 will likely solve this problem, so you approach your CEO and CFO to explain to them that implementing Office 365 is the right way to go.
- What to do: Instead of talking tech, i.e. about what Office 365 can do from a technical standpoint, give the senior executives a rundown of how the technology is going to help the end-users and how this can help your organization in the end. For example, one of Office 365’s important collaboration features is real-time co-authoring, giving employees the opportunity to work on documents simultaneously from wherever they are and using any device. And the major benefits to the organization include improved communications, cost savings, scalability, and increased productivity and employee satisfaction. That’s language that a CEO and CFO wants to hear!
Tip #2: Frame Your Discussion Around “What’s In It For Me?”
- The Scenario: You have seen that your organization is woefully unprepared for any type of disaster, and you need to change that. You have decided to implement Azure Site Recovery as a major part of a new Disaster Recovery Plan you’re putting together, but your organization’s senior executive team doesn’t see the need for the added costs of implementing a Disaster Recovery Plan.
- What to do: To convince them, you prepare a presentation that discusses what they should expect if they decided not to implement it – from having to incur an average cost of $148,000 per incident, to providing statistics on how many customers they can expect to lose if they experience a disaster, to talking about the reputational repercussions that their brand will face after a data breach. By showing them what they can expect (or, what’s in it for them), you provide your senior executive team with valuable incentive to accept your Disaster Recovery Plan and give you the go-ahead to implement it.
This “What’s In It For Me?”, or WIIFM, approach, works well when you’re talking to senior executives, but it is also a very effective best practice of communication when dealing with virtually everyone you’ll come across in your life. If you can master this tip for discussing your IT ideas with senior executives, you’re guaranteed to be able to communicate effectively with anyone you meet!
Tip #3: Use Analogies and Metaphors
- The Scenario: Your organization is moving and you need to move a large amount of your data to the new facility. You have decided to propose using Azure ExpressRoute to accomplish this move, because you know that using Azure ExpressRoute will allow your organization to take advantage of faster and more reliable connections while transferring your data. But you know that your senior executive team doesn’t appreciate “techno-babble”, so you tell the senior executive team that using Azure ExpressRoute would be like taking your organization’s connection from a slow, two-lane, back-country road to a faster, 400-series Highway.
- What to do: Using analogies and metaphors is a fantastic way to communicate ideas and concepts to people who aren’t as versed as you are in the topic you’re describing. Stop and think – how would you describe a complex concept to someone who doesn’t have the same amount of knowledge that you do? What would really make sense to the people you’re talking to? Analogies and metaphors put things into terms that are suddenly relatable, no matter the person’s technical knowledge.
Tip #4: Patience is a Virtue
- The Scenario: Your organization has just implemented Dynamics 365 and you have been selected to provide training to the sales team. However, despite speaking their language, using analogies and metaphors, and explaining what’s in it for them, some of your colleagues still aren’t getting it.
- What to do: Stop and remember that everyone learns differently. Some people learn by doing, others by listening. If they’re constantly asking questions of you, that’s a sign that they’re not able to absorb the lessons that you’re teaching. Try a different tack. Write out the lesson for them. Offer one-on-one training for that colleague at a mutually convenient time in the near future. Most importantly, put yourself in that colleague’s shoes by remembering a time when you didn’t understand something. Maybe you just didn’t get Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream or King Lear in that high school English class.
Communicate More Effectively with Non-IT Professionals
There’s no way around it – there will always be times when you, as an IT professional, will have to speak to and present IT ideas to non-IT professionals within the organization you’re with whether that’s getting buy-in from senior executives to introduce and implement new technology into your organization, or presenting and/or training your colleagues on those new IT initiatives. By absorbing and putting into practice these four tips, you can set yourself up to communicate more effectively with those non-IT people.
Need Some Help?
For over 15 years, we’ve communicated “tech” with customers in different job functions in various industries. If you’re researching ways that you can implement Office 365, Azure, Dynamics 365 or other new, innovative technologies into your organization, talk to us first. We’re able to talk tech with you, but also give you the information you need to take to your senior executives, using the language they’ll understand the most. Contact us today!