I was asked, “How do we communicate projects that contain lots of technical terms and language?”

The use of technical language is useful when communicating with experts. There is a certain efficiency when we use this language as each word captures lots of background knowledge, and you can communicate with the speed of a hammer gun, instead of a hammer and nail. It’s much faster and less verbose.

However, when we want to communicate our research it makes sense to leave the technical language to the side and use plain-spoken English. And, getting to the heart of the project which is how the study was conducted, and the impact of the results.

The wrong way to communicate technical language is to write long definitions of each term, expect the reader to absorb the knowledge, and keep it in their mind till the end of the document. My sense is that is too complicated and does not make understanding the work easier. However, this is a common writing style in academia. You write out your definitions (axioms), build up your model, and show how the model fits the data. As technical experts, we have become adept at using this communication style in papers, and are trained to use it well.

The right way to communicate technical language is to avoid using it. We need to use plain-spoken English. One of the great communication projects I’d like to reference that shaped my ideas around this is the 3-minute thesis competition. The concept is that students present their work in three minutes, and use one slide.

The tips are so good:

  • No technical language.
  • Focus on people (who are important for this research.)
  • highlighting outcomes (and impact)
  • Imagine explaining it to a friend or family member
  • Bring your passion
  • Tell a story (three acts) (Kurt Vonnegut on the Spahes of Stories)
  • Revise (do it in front of people, proofread, and test)
  • Think about your audience and what they need to take away from this work.

Communication is about knowing your audience and making a connection. These tips above here make you think about that. It reminds me of that saying “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” Research is not accessible when we only use jargon and that’s a shame. We want that research to make an impact on society. To ensure your work lands; take your time, be patient, and make an impact with your words.