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Communicating scientific and technical information

Your firm has many experts in their areas of focus, and part of your job is helping them be recognized for that expertise. 

Communication of that expertise is going to have to strike a fine balance between the subject specific and the generally comprehensible. After all, not everyone has the technical knowledge of your firm's members -- say, for example, a geomorphologist -- most importantly not the people who will be hiring that person.

Be aware that in communicating your firm's scientific and technical expertise you need to aim for clarity and understanding.

There are four main elements you need to consider when communicating scientific information:

1. Only use jargon after you’ve explained it

Yes, it’s only been a short time since I made the jump from academia to the corporate world. Did I have jargon baggage? Definitely. I still struggle with trying to write in a more active voice and not revert to my passive academic prose.

In most cases, jargon can be your ticket in. Dropping those magic words can open doors. Jargon is the name dropping of expertise.

But, dropping names needs to be sprinkled into the conversation, not heaped on. You need to use your discipline’s lingo, the language and terms you would use every day to complete the job. Why then can’t you go blathering on about the newest drilling rigs for geothermal projects? Simply because your core audience –presumably those who will be hiring you –will not be specialists in geothermal power generation, and is why they are hiring you. They need you to be sparing in your application of key discipline terms so your audience doesn’t get bogged down in the jargon.

2. Be aware of your audience and write to their interests

Generally, you are targeting a specific line of work that utilizes your main area of expertise.

Let’s say you are an archaeologist and your ideal clients are construction firms who need to survey historically or culturally significant land under the law before constructing a building on it. While you could write about your latest archaeological discovery and how it will change the world, your potential employer is really more concerned with how you will help them complete their project on time and on budget. So be aware of whom you are writing for and speak to their issues and priorities.

3. Tell a story

If you saved your last client a great deal of time and money through efficiencies, why not tell your next prospect about it?

To logically lay out your story, think beginning, middle and end:

  • Start from the beginning of the project, making sure you introduce the context and give some intriguing background details.
  • Make sure you outline the problem or challenge. Explain how you framed and analyzed the problem.
  • Outline your solutions and how you implemented them with the client.
  • Explain the follow-up and the results: How did this keep them on track and save them resources?

Case studies can be a great way to start talking about your projects. Most importantly, they allow your client to identify themselves in your last client and their issues.

4. Use the visual whenever possible

I recently tried to explain to a group of management consultants why they should consider using pictures, videos and other visual artifacts from their work, in their online profiles. I was definitely met with some skepticism. Why would it help a financial analyst to take a picture of their work? And, what kind of image would it be? A healthy balance sheet?

Well not exactly -- and it may be easier to show the visual elements of a job that has a physical product or project. A financial analyst can show their workspace, a presentation in action or anything that will give a potential client an idea what working with you would be like.

During my final year as an environmental science student, I took a course I thought would be an easy credit: Communicating Conservation Biology in the Visual Medium. It actually flipped a switch and got me to start trying to communicate my research through photography and it made me start seeing social media as a tool for sharing this. I gave myself the challenge to translate my very subject specific knowledge in environmental assessment and policy into something I could communicate to anyone. These are skills I went on to utilize in my graduate research and which ultimately led to a job in the marketing world.

Hopefully, this has got you thinking about how you present scientific and technical information and maybe made you think twice about how you present your expertise in your next proposal.

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Tagged under: Thought Leadership,

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