5 Ways Technology Vendors Fail When Describing Products and Services
There’s a journalistic tool I use that I’m a little reticent to share but for the sake of this piece it may be useful. Sometimes, as a reporter, I pretend to be dumber than I am.
It’s a useful way to make interview subjects feel more comfortable. People have a tendency to be more forthcoming when they think they know more about a subject than the person they’re talking to. It’s also a nice tool in case someone’s being cagey with information and I’m able to surprise them with my level of knowledge and gain some respect. It’s a technique television detective Columbo used with great success. In my days as a financial reporter, it served me particularly well. Financial analysts love to drown you in numbers but can be thrown off guard when a young whippersnapper can talk about the resurgent relevance of the Baltic Dry Index.
But oftentimes you actually are the least smart person in the room. But I don’t believe we should consider that a bad thing, per se. If we use the chance to ask questions we can learn a lot and actually grow as people.
In these instances, it behooves the explainer to be delicate with their language. To break down ideas in simple terms and make sure those ideas are understood. In the information and technology game, and in my specific beat of data protection, I’ve often felt like the dumbest guy at the party. Especially at the start.
Fortunately, many of the people I had the opportunity to speak with in the beginning were patient and willing to share what they knew. Still, there are a number of easy mistakes that some vendors can make when explaining their technology to you. What follows are a few of the bigger obstacles I’ve come up against in my travels.
1. Inside Baseball
When you’re an expert in something it can be very easy to get caught up in the jargon of the subject. Shorthand terms like RTO and RPO are great when you’re talking with fellow insiders, but they can sound like nonsense to a layman.
There are few things in life better than talking to someone who is excited about their work. It’s can be contagious. But if you can’t keep up with what they’re saying it’s hard to appreciate the gravity of the subject.
2. The Minutiae of the Big Picture
This is closely related to the previous segment, but I’ve chosen to give it its own category because I believe there is a place outside of jargon where minutia is important. Minutiae are the tiny details that make things work and those details are often taken for granted by experts.
To steal a cliche, it’s not seeing the forest for the trees. Or only seeing the forest and forgetting the trees. Sometimes you need to be able to break down a big idea into its component parts to make it clearly understood.
3. Assumption Of Historical Context
All good ideas are built on ones that came before. Like, I can espouse at length on why a band like REM or Green Day couldn’t exist without Black Flag having come before them. But that’s because I spent my teenage years scouring through music history books. To an outsider, that sentence probably looks like gibberish.
Taking for granted the developments that occurred and led to your new piece of technology can rob a new solution of its greatness.
4. Talking Down
People like to feel smart. It’s human nature. But when you condescend to someone you’re likely to alienate them.
Fortunately, this is an example inspired more from my business reporter days. But it has a universal truth. Talking down to someone has the potential to ruin future relationships. Or just make you look like an ass. At any rate, it’s not a way to get on someone’s good side and could ruin a sale or inspire a scathing review.
5. Nervous to Explain
Being the smartest gal or fella on a specific subject can sometimes have the opposite effect though. Where some people are made cocky by their expertise, other folks can get quite self-conscious about it. This can lead to important points getting skimmed over or not mentioned at all. Neither of which is helpful.
Get excited about your technology. Sing its praises like you’re starring in a Broadway musical. Bang on walls and jump on couches. Just be clear and concise when you do it.
Luckily, the Internet is a thing (an obvious fact to any reader of this post). That makes research a breeze and any reporter worth their old-timey fedora and press pass is an expert researcher and they’ll explain your technology and ideas in an accurate and truthful way. But, at the end of the day, communicating well saves everyone time and heartache. It fosters positive relationships and builds rapport. Fortunately, the path at the beginning of my journey into tech writing was lined with kind, concise people who led the way to my understanding. Because of that, I was encouraged to keep going and deepen my understanding of the sector and I’m happy to keep writing about it.