Communication Coaching Tips For IT Professionals “The Three D’s”

Tip # 1: Diagnose the Disease

Using a medical analogy, you are like a tech doctor with a specific expertise, so before you prescribe make sure you diagnose. What is the business challenge or the disease the audience has? You want to be certain that the presenting problem of the customer matches the need for your skill. This will require two things. First, ask the person who invited you to the meeting or presentation the following question: “What is the problem the audience has that you think I am the solution for?” If their description of the need relates to your skill set, then the tech medicine you provide at the meeting will be appreciated.

Secondly, at the beginning of the presentation or meeting restate the purpose and the need of the audience. For, example, “I understand, and correct me if I am wrong, that the purpose of this meeting is to explain the concept VoIP (voice over IP). And, this is important to you because you are interested in reducing your phone bills and increasing profitability. Is that true?” You now have accomplished a major element in the communication process by establishing the WIIIFM (What Is In It For Me?) The audience now sees that you understand their concerns and that you can bring value to their business world.

Tip # 2 Dismantle the Firewall

It has often been said that the number one fear people have is the fear of speaking in the public domain. This fear inhibits the flow of communication both from you and from the audience. I equate it to having a 56k connection to the space. The role you must play is not only the subject manner expert but also the host and/or hostess of the conversation you are managing. The more comfortable and relaxed people feel, the greater will be the throughput and effectiveness of your communication in the space. The basic formula to increase your broadband connection to the audience is simply to get the audience to communicate. Every time they say something it pulls a brick out of their firewall and increases the rapport and intimacy. Take advantage of every opportunity to pull a brick. For example, arrive early, shake hands and introduce yourself to everyone in the room. Especially introduce yourself to the people you don’t know. Why? Because the attack you may fear will not come from the person you know but rather from the person you do not know. During the actual conversation rather then keeping the token yourself encourage other people to share in the spot light. Make the conversation a team sport rather than a solo performance. By doing this, you will dismantle firewalls and the space in the room will get lighter.

Tip #3 Dispel the Fog of Unclarity

It is very common to see knowledgeable IT professionals fail in their communication because they were unable to take the abstract, technical concepts and translate them into a form that was clearly understood by the audience. What are the barriers that block clarity in people? Years ago one of my teachers said there were two main barriers. The first and most important is the misunderstood word. If the person sees or hears a word or acronym that is not understood, it creates confusion and they will often disconnect from the conversation. For the most part, your conversation and power point slides are full of misunderstood words. If people see something they don’t understand they are often reluctant to ask for clarity because they don’t want to appear like a fool in front of others. Therefore, the IT professional needs to be very aware of the vocabulary they use and take the time to ensure the audience is clear on the important terms and acronyms.

The second barrier to clarity is the lack of the third dimension. What does this mean? The media you use to explain the technology are words, flip charts, white boards, power point slides, Webex, telepresence, etc. All these are one and two-dimensional forms. Physical props and mass have three dimensions. By explaining the key abstractions using props and mass you will notice that the fog of unclarity is dispelled. Therefore, if you really want the audience to understand your communication and be clear you need to become a Master of Mass. How do you do that? All around you in the meeting or presentation room there are physical objects like cups, pens, laptops, paper, phones, cords, tent card, markers, etc. Practice taking the abstract concept and explaining it using the physical objects. For example, the tent card becomes a firewall, the cup represents resources in the private network and the markers become hackers trying to attack the corporate resources on the other side of the firewall. Through practice you will be able to demonstrate any technical concept. There are many benefits from the side of the audience. They will have a clearer understanding of the abstraction, mass demos are great keep alive that attract their attention and they will feel you care about them because you are actually taking the time to package your communication using mass.

In conclusion, by practicing the tips of the three D’s (diagnosing, dismantling and dispelling) the quality of your communication during your presentations and meeting will improve dramatically.

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