„Sorry, could you please rephrase that as if I were a clueless nine-year-old?”
This is what Mădălina, our latest Community Talks guest, frequently finds herself asking researchers, engineers, and software developers when they use highly specialized language in trying to explain their work.
„As a communicator for science and technology, I have to do this because professionals like to be as precise as they can, which usually means relying on technical jargon. However, when they need to speak with funding bodies, the press, or even peers from a slightly different domain, they fail to make themselves understood. This is where I step in.”
Tip-toeing around the subject
It’s not the first time we’re tackling this subject. For several years we’ve been talking about how our day-to-day communications influence the outcome of our work efforts.
Three years ago, we started polishing our writing skills, so we could improve our written communications, from emails to sharing our most interesting work-related experiences with the rest of the world on the RomSoft blog.
We became more aware of how Agile and SCRUM methodologies use storytelling elements to convey the project context through different perspectives, such as customers and end users.
We recognized we need to improve our public speaking abilities and deliver better training sessions, demos, briefings, retrospectives, you name it, and that this should be an everyday effort.
The natural course of events was to hear it straight from the science communicator’s mouth about how every time we choose technical mumbo-jumbo over normal speak, we throw away the opportunity to get our message across.
About our guest
Our guest for this month was Mădălina Cocea – one of the very few science communicators in Romania, and founder of Comunicarestiintifica.ro, a platform that explains science in common language.
For the past 15 years, Mădălina has been translating Romanian research results to an audience that is greatly neglected: the larger public. Her tools of choice are her curiosity and her keyboard. She uses them to write articles that promote Romanian scientific research, to organize science events for all audiences, including kids (such as Noaptea Cercetatorilor), to create and implement mandatory impact strategies in EU-funded H2020 projects, or to write a monthly newsletter about science and communication (that we definitely encourage you to subscribe here).
A few takeaways
Mădălina has shared with us several strategies that she has been using successfully in her workshops, in order to help tech minds of all kinds transform their technical speak into stories even a nine-year-old can understand.
The first thing we learned is that no matter how complicated the subject, there’s always a way to communicate it in a more accessible way.
The second aspect was that technical jargon acts like scissors. Whenever it’s used, communication is cut off.
The third, and maybe the most important thought to take home from this session, was that we should communicate less like we’re talking to ourselves in front of a mirror, and be more aware of the person standing in front of us.
What is Community Talks
After (almost) three years of remote work, we feel the need to, once in a while, get together and learn about inspiring stories from our line of work or from our community that are relevant to us.
With this idea in mind, we created a program called Community Talks. It is part of our larger discussion about tech storytelling and how to have better conversations in our everyday work.
Once a month, we want to invite somebody from outside RomSoft to share with us an inspiring story, or just to have an interesting conversation, be it in the technical area or anything else that we have a shared interest in.
Our guests will play the role of the Guide to any good story, helping us navigate through difficult challenges, acquire new skills and understand where the opportunities lie in this rapidly changing world.