How To Communicate Ideas Effectively And Clearly

Thoughts are strange and ephemeral things. They float around in your head as bare wisps, until one little strand develops an affinity for another little strand, and together they start to form ideas. After a little percolation (involving a LOT of caffeine) those ideas occasionally evolve into fully fledged plans that seem somewhat coherent and sensible. Often, it’s at that precise moment when the trouble starts. What’s the best way to share your knowledge or opinions with others; to communicate ideas effectively? That is: how do you explain your thoughts, so that they make perfect sense?

How do you avoid being written off as a nut-job, boring people rigid, or talking in circles?

Communicating ideas effectively is a process that Team Blrt is fairly engrossed by. For some of our first team members, it was such an important process that it prompted us to develop an award-winning tool that helps people explain things. But Obi-Wan didn’t hand Luke a lightsaber without a bit of training and a few Jedi insider tips, right? That’s why we’ve developed this handy, ten-point guide on how to communicate ideas effectively to anyone. Let’s start at the top (as any well-thought-out explanation usually does).

Here's how to #communicate #ideas effectively and clearly. Click To Tweet

How To Communicate Ideas Effectively And Clearly

1. Know your stuff

How To Communicate Ideas Effectively And ClearlyAs Albert Einstein once famously said “If you can’t explain it simply, you did not understand it well enough.” This means that you need to know your material inside and out if you want to communicate ideas effectively.

If it’s a new idea that you want to share, think it through from end to end and try to consider all possibilities. If it’s a process that you need to explain, be sure that you fully understand all the steps and interdependencies in it and why they exist. Anticipate what questions might be asked and develop some answers.

After you’ve become the master of your subject, rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. Practice speaking in front of a mirror, the dog or the people on the bus. Record yourself speaking and play it back. Test yourself by trying to explain your concept in less than five minutes.

All these tactics will ensure that you can deliver a clear explanation, in front of an audience, and under pressure if necessary.

2. Make sure they give a hoot

If you want your messages to be absorbed and retained, the people that you’re talking to actually need to be engaged and interested in your topic.

This can be achieved by piquing their interest, and convincing them early on that what you have to say is really important. It also helps if it’s relevant to them directly in some way, or if that’s not possible, that it engenders empathy for others. There’s no point in spinning your best yarn to people who just don’t care, or whose minds are elsewhere.

Playing on the egocentric behaviour that everyone exhibits once in a while or yanking really hard on their heartstrings is a surefire way to capture and retain their attention.

3. Don’t talk down or up

On the Quora thread I was reading on this topic, there seemed to be some consensus that to communicate ideas effectively, you should do it as if you were talking to a six-year-old.

To be honest, I’m not entirely sure about that approach. No-one likes to feel as though they’re being treated like a simpleton, and that they’re getting a glossed over version of your story that somehow leaves out important information. By all means, streamline and simplify, but don’t strip out the logic that makes your point of view, your process or your ideas feasible. You don’t want people to think that your idea is ‘fluffy’ or that you’re trying to pull the wool over their eyes.

When it comes to #communicating your #ideas, don't talk up or down. Click To Tweet

By the same token, if peoples’ eyes go glassy and they start doodling sheep jumping over fences while you’re talking, it might be because you’re talking over their heads. Usual symptoms of speaking and writing like that include overuse of industry jargon, acronyms and long-winded sentences. Aim for the middle. This is one of life’s few instances where average is great.

4. Get down with metaphors and analogies

Analogies are comparisons between unlike things that have some particular aspects in common. Traditional analogies include the eye and a camera, the heart and a pump, the brain and a computer, and the memory and a filing cabinet.vAnalogies often begin with such phrases as, “It’s just like …”, “It’s the same as …”, and “Think of it as …”.

Metaphors perform a similar function, but they do it by saying something is something else. For instance “that exam was murder” and ‘the business was a sinking ship” are both metaphors.

Good presenters use metaphors and analogies to communicate ideas effectively; to make unfamiliar concepts more meaningful to students by connecting what they already know to what they are learning. And when people create their own analogies for a new concept the quality of the comparison drawn can help the presenter assess someone’s understanding of the new concepts.

5. Know what not to tell them

When you understand a topic or a concept completely, you can be forgiven for thinking that every little detail is super-important. Don’t fall into that trap!

The reality is that when you’re trying to communicate ideas effectively – particularly ideas that are complex, there are lots of little details that you should omit. Some things just aren’t as important as they might seem when you’re imparting information about a new topic, and often you can safely address those complexities at a later date.

In the initial stages, your overriding objective is to get a point across and help people understand at a conceptual level. Strange terminology, names, or specific processes rarely matter when you’re explaining things at a conceptual level. If they don’t have direct and material bearing to what you’re explaining, leave them out.

Don't get bogged down in detail when trying to #communicate your #ideas. Click To Tweet

6. Get their hands on things

Another great quote connected with learning comes from Confucius, who said something along the lines of “I see and I remember. I do and I understand”. Granted, he probably said this in Chinese, but I digress.

The point is that (assuming you’re not planning on explaining something to the next wave of trainee brain surgeons) it’s a good idea to get your audience’s hands on the subject matter as soon as possible in the process of your explanation. If you’re proposing something brand new, see if you can develop a basic prototype or sample to allow people to experience your idea. If you’re explaining how to do something in a different way, get the audience to actually do it while you’re explaining the steps.

7. Draw stuff for your audience

(even if your talent only extends to stick figures)

How To Communicate Ideas Effectively And ClearlyWhen you delve into the science of learning, people generally fall into one of two camps – the Listeners and the Watchers.

Listeners absorb more from hearing people speak, and watchers learn more by looking at people. Its when you combine listening with pictures that the magic happens, and this is known as the ‘picture superiority effect’. Yep – that’s a real thing

Back in 1976, some clever folk called Nelson, Reed and Walling documented it in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, and what it basically said is that when you add a diagram to some spoken or written words, it lifts retention from 10% (words alone) to 65% (words and pictures).

What this means for your powers of explanation is that you need talk or write as well as providing visual stimulus. Try incorporating an image, a flowchart or a graph that illustrates the point you’re trying to make. Try interacting with these visual devices or presenting different versions of them to illustrate alternative scenarios.

8. Draw stuff for yourself

In a similar vein, you can use drawing and sketching as a tool to hash out your ideas and whip them into logical shape before you present them to others.

Mind mapping is a great technique for this. If you haven’t encountered a mind map before, it’s simply a diagram that connects bits of information around a central theme, in a sort of a radial structure (not unlike the photo just above). At the middle is a circle containing your main idea and the branches carry circles containing subtopics or related ideas. Greater levels of detail branch out from there and branches can be linked together.

9. Break things down into elemental parts

Mind mapping (explained above) is a great precursor to writing a paper or a presentation because it helps you break big ideas down into elemental pieces and then logically structure what you want to say.

Using a mind map you can visualise what should come first, and what makes more sense when it follows. It also helps you to bring out relationships between things that you’re explaining, and associate ideas.

Another thing to bear in mind when constructing your thoughts into a presentation or argument is that you should resist introducing ambiguities or complexities too early. You should try and introduce these (if they’re absolutely necessary) after you’ve cemented your foundation ideas in the minds of your audience.

10. Ensure they’re with you every step of the way

How To Communicate Ideas Effectively And ClearlyHopefully your explanatory process will raise some questions.

“QUESTIONS???!!!” I hear you gasp? Doesn’t that mean I’ve done a crappy job of explaining my thoughts? No! We assure you. Absolutely not.

Questions mean that you’ve been successful in getting people to engage their minds and grapple with your subject matter. It means that you’ve piqued their interest and that they want to know more. Questions are a totally great result of your presentation.

Don’t forget also that the person or people that you’re talking to shouldn’t be the only ones asking questions. You need to ask questions too, to ensure that they’re keeping up, and that they understand. Getting them to tell you what you’ve just told them is a great way of ensuring that they’re still with the program.

Communicate ideas effectively to Blrt

We’ve reached the magic number ten which concludes our list of how to communicate ideas effectively, but we’re by no means under the illusion that the list is complete. If you have some other pointers on how to clearly explain your thoughts, click below to send us a Blrt ([email protected]). If you explain it well enough, we’ll add it to the list.

About Blrt

Blrt helps you get your point across quickly by allowing you to talk, point and draw over images, documents and websites. The resulting video-like recording is called a Blrt.

Your Blrts require much less bandwidth than video and can be shared with anyone on mobile or desktop. This makes Blrt ideal for both collaboration and the creation and sharing of dynamic content, as public Blrts can be embedded into any webpage.

Once recorded, Blrts are stored in the cloud and are exchanged with others in a conversation-like fashion. A record is kept of the exchange, and new parties and media can be added at any time.

Blrt shifts time and place, allowing users in a conversation to participate in their own time. In an era where activity-based working and distributed teams are commonplace, Blrt is revolutionising the way people interact to get things done.

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