Take a pause—the world today has a short attention span. The average person will invest two minutes or less listening to a sound bite. The lay person will read about 140 written characters before deciding to stay or bounce.  Explaining technical material is a challenge. How can it be done?

Be Concise

If the writer cannot explain it, he or she doesn’t understand the material.


If the audience gives feedback that the material is difficult to understand—revise, edit, restate the bottom line in a different way.

Tell Stories

Engineers and scientists often begin reports with data and statistics. This can be too dry for the lay audience. The movie trilogy, Lord of the Rings, can be a great story to build a case of increasing environmental protections. In Lord of the Rings, we have Bilbo Baggins on a journey to save the shire from ultimate evil. He rallies support while battling self-doubt. Today, we live in a world where we have the numbers to prove the decline of our air, soil, and water. We need to rally together. We need to lay down effective conservationism to battle the ultimate greed encouraging misuse of Mother Earth.

Use Visuals

Adding pictures to technical material, help the reader visualize summaries, reports, maps, timelines, etc. Visuals allow the material to appeal to a wider range of learning styles.

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Use Analogies and Metaphors

Analogies and metaphors make information more relatable. Interventional radiology, micro-surgery through blood vessels in the human body, is to medicine what ordering home delivered groceries is to busy families. Less fuss. Less muss.

Always Ask “So What?”

Finally, the average person wants to know the bottom line when reading technical material. So what? Why does this matter to me? The writer needs to clearly convey the practical day-to-day benefits of the technical piece.

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