I’m doing a lot of speaking all of a sudden, related to my pre-launch plans around a new media company. I’m finding that there are certain skills in communicating the information and building understanding that are important and useful. I thought I’d pass on some thoughts along those lines.

Use Analogies

Okay, sometimes my analogies are bad, but the premise is still good. It’s important to be able to talk about something that interests you both in the “native tongue” of what you’re doing, as well as in the language of the person you’re speaking with. For instance, if I’m talking to someone who’s not into podcasting, and I’m explaining what my new business will be about. I say, “I’m just trying to be a whole bunch of different magazines in the magazine stand at the local bookstore.” It’s easy. They understand the building blocks: it’s not my store, it’s my magazine. It’s not my rack. It’s my magazine. Simple, easy to understand. I don’t have to waste a lot of breath.

Consider the following tips:

  • Learn more than one way to present your idea.
  • Practice pitching your idea on friends, strangers, supportive and hostile listeners.
  • Tailor the way you talk about your idea to the person you’re talking with.
  • Check in. Are they following? Let them ask questions.
  • Use your audience’s words to explain your idea. You can correct misunderstandings later.
  • Allow “white space” around the ideas. Don’t overwhelm them with content.
  • Try to close with actions, even if that’s to get the person to critique the idea better than, “Oh, that sounds neat.”

Which leads me into the other half of this. I find that people pitch their ideas as if they’re never going to have a chance to talk about them ever again. Now, while that might be true when faced with the person in front of you at any given moment, you’ll have all the time in the world to practice. Don’t blow the person out of the water by overwhelming them with the guts of every aspect of the idea.

Distill Ideas

You have to convey the most understanding in the shortest time frame. This is very similar to the concept of an elevator pitch: how would you explain your idea to a captive audience in an elevator if you had only sixty seconds to make the pitch? Think along the lines of how you can best craft your idea such that it hits the major points while not overwhelming the listener. Here are some ideas:

  • What are the BARE BONES of the idea?
  • How few words can you use, and still get meaning across? (example: we fill up your ipod).
  • Can you use “crossover” ideas. “Like TV and Radio, only two-way.”
  • What is most confusing? Can you change it?
  • Would a picture help?
  • How much can be explained later without hurting the conversation now?
  • What’s your next sentence, after this new, distilled one?

Ideas can be brilliant in your head and not translate well out of your mouth. Without understanding and buy-in from those you need to complete your idea, the information presented ends up being translated as “noise.” How can you apply these tips to ideas you have in your day to day life? Have you had this experience before? What other tips do you want to add to my 14?

–Chris Brogan writes about self-improvement and creativity at [chrisbrogan.com]. He’s working on launching Grasshopper New Media, an audio and video podcast media company.

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