So, what would you say to an alien?

Following on from last time, now we’ll look at what you want to tell your audience. You might have heard this referred to as your key messages. Basically, they are the important points you want to get across. Someone once described it to me as the three things you would say to an alien who had just landed on earth to explain what you’re doing! Or maybe how you would explain it to a 9-year-old (possibly the same thing!).

This should be relatively straightforward. After all, you know your own subject inside out. But that’s sometimes the problem and why it is so important to take a step back and consider a few factors:

  1. How much detail is there in what you want to say? If there’s a lot, try and break it into more manageable chunks so your audience can absorb it bit by bit.
  2. How much jargon are you using? This can be particularly tricky to identify, as it all makes sense to you. It’s a good idea to ask a non-expert to tell you if there are words they don’t understand.
  3. What’s the whole story? Don’t make assumptions about what your audience already knows. Once you’ve put the whole picture together you can match it against your research into the audience’s knowledge and go from there.

The key is to ensure that you look at what they want to hear and what you want to tell them, then bridge any gaps. For example, when I worked with a charity to communicate changes to their pension scheme, we had to start by explaining how it worked currently because many of the members were unaware. To make sense of what we wanted to tell them, they wanted to know something else first. By giving them the information they wanted first, I made sure that the changes were actually meaningful to them when we started to explain what would happen.

Until next time

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