Jo Umberger

Facilitating the process of key players achieving measurable, mission-critical results in leadership, communication, engagement, people skills/People Side of Lean, productivity, and teamwork.

What if the decision-makers don’t understand your technical message?

What if you are trying to get funding for a highly-technical concept and the decision-makers’ expertise is not in your field? What if they don’t have the background to fully understand the value of your proposition?

A group of manufacturing site leaders and global team leaders, mostly engineers, desperately needed to deliver a report to non-engineers in order to continue their project. Each of the 12 team members had created up to 8 slides and each slide was complex, containing a long list of bullets, multiple small charts with no explanations, or job-specific abbreviations. The goal was to deliver a clear, concise report of approximately 20 slides that would convince those with the purse strings to fund the next phase of the project in order to yield a greater ROI for the organization.

You could say they needed a gap analysis as well as the epoxy.

In a profession chock-o-block with acronyms, technical jargon, and euphemisms, great translation is the key to clear, concise, accurately conveyed communication.

Here are several ideas you can use to ensure that your intended message is sent and received as intended. These ideas work well when creating slides, too.

1. Write the message as if you were saying it using your regular terminology. Then edit it by including explanations in simple terms so anyone can understand . . . especially those who don't fathom your particular vernacular.  :)

3. Create an introduction by using a sentence or two to get their attention.  Ask yourself, "Why do they want or need to know this information?" Focus on What’s In It For Them.

4. Explain the concept in story form, complete with beginning, middle and end. Use pictures. When using graphs, ensure they are simple to follow. Write 2-3 word explanations and use arrows to point them to the parts of the graph they detail.

5. Prepare a conclusion based on the purpose of your presentation. If it is to inform, summarize your concept in a sentence or two. If the purpose is to motivate people to take action, state what you want them to do, indicating What’s In It For Them. (On a slide, make it a short sentence at the bottom of the slide.)

6. Never use bullets on slides!

7. When giving the presentation in-person, ask them to check your communication by summarizing what they heard. It is essential for you to own the process, including any misunderstanding on their part. Take responsibility and let them know you do.

What happens if your highly analytical messages aren’t communicated in such a way that your non-technical listeners/readers fully grasp their value? Unfortunately this situation usually does not turn out to your or the organization’s advantage.

When you translate your tech-talk so everyone understands, you will be in a much better position for the hearer to buy into your message and take the action you need!

Need help communicating your message? I've been translating tech-talk for over 25 years.  Drop me a line at

Copyright Umberger Development Partners Inc., 2016. All rights reserved.


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