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  • Adam Walter

How to talk to people 101

Listen: Humanize IT Podcast Blog Ep 128

When you visit a car mechanic, you’re not interested in the technicalities behind how they fixed your car — all you care about is if the professionals you trusted took the correct measures needed to solve your problems. The same can be said for IT.

In business, there seems to be a language barrier among each department, meaning sales lingo and technology jargon won’t translate well when trying to form a productive conversation together. To change this, it’s important to never assume the other party knows what you know.

Speaking the Same Language

You may have spent all year keeping the company stable behind the scenes with routine updates, like an oil change. That important work needed to be done, but unfortunately, your colleagues don’t care about that. People are self-interested by nature. Want to keep their attention during your end of-year presentation? You’ve got to appeal to your audience rather than sharing data that’s meaningless in their eyes.

The key is to share your successes in a tangible way that makes sense to everyone. Explain to employees what you’ve done to better their lives so far, and tease what you’ll do in the future to build excitement. To get there, it’s crucial to have meaningful conversations with the business owner and other key stakeholders in a language you all understand.

First, ask the CEO, “What are the business’s key initiatives for the next three years?”

Then, ask yourself, “How can I empower these initiatives through technology?”

Let the CEO or stakeholder describe their day to you in detail. Listen — really listen — to their response in order to identify any gaps, then come back with a thoughtful solution later. Pinpoint exactly what the business needs to operate better from a practical standpoint.

If you don’t understand something the person said, speak up and tell them you’re unfamiliar with that process or terminology. And it goes both ways: if the IT department does nothing but talk about the techy details, you’ll get excluded from company-wide conversations in the future. It’s all about learning to speak each other's language. The more you sit in and listen to other departments, the better you’ll understand how they communicate.

Conversations, Not Presentations

Once you’ve got that down, you’re ready to give a kick-butt presentation that results in minimal phone-checking and yawning from the audience. Avoid PowerPoint slides full of data at all costs. Instead, tell the employees, “Here are our KPIs, and this is how new technology is helping you reach them.” Go beyond numbers to explain your plan, and don’t tell them how you’re going to get it done, because they don’t care. Talk about the end result instead.

This all stems back Humanize IT’s core value of promoting conversations over presentations. Never assume that the other party knows how you do your job. Make an effort to communicate, to learn, and to get to know each other. Business owners: getting the most out of your IT guys is just a short conversation away. Share your vision, explain exactly what you do throughout the day, and let technology fill those holes.

It takes curiosity, humility and patience from both parties. Own your expertise and be proud of the complexities of your projects, but understand that others only care about how the end result affects their life at work. The best solutions arise when everyone comes together to find a common language.

Tune in next week as we continue our 4th quarter madness series: "There is no minute like the last minute!"

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