The Art of ExplanationJuly 23, 2013
Being able to clearly present your product or service is an essential skill that can make or break your business. The benefits of summarizing your ideas in a succinct and appealing manner are obvious, yet we often miss the mark without even realizing it.
Selling involves so much more than completing a transaction. The truth is the sale will never close unless your client knows exactly what you have to offer and how it will benefit them. Similarly, your colleagues will be slow to get on board with your latest proposal if its merits aren’t clear. Rambling about your vision to a boardroom full of execs with glazed eyes is not your ticket to success.
In his new book, The Art of Explanation: Making Your Ideas, Products, and Services Easier to Understand, communications consulting expert Lee LeFever lays out a three-part process we can use to ensure we are making the facts clearly understood in an interesting manner.
“Like any art form, explanation thrives on being unique and novel,” writes LeFever. “It succeeds when it helps people see ideas from a new perspective.”
A clinical, sterile explanation may fly in a doctor’s office, but it won’t inspire anyone in the business world. To craft a great explanation, you must be willing to look at things from the perspective of the listener. The more you appeal to their learning style, the better your explanation will be received.
It is important to identify and address any information gaps in your explanation. LeFever suggests mapping it out using an explanation scale on an A-to-Z knowledge continuum. Imagine those who know very little about the topic are in the A-B-C spectrum, while you – since you have done all your homework and learned all there is to know about the topic – are at the X-Y-Z end. Don’t make the mistake of assuming your clients or colleagues will know as much as you do. Tailor your explanation to appeal to the group at the lower end of the continuum, but have a plan for those who have more knowledge as well.
Most of all make sure you have a great answer to the most important question: Why should we care about this?
Once you’ve determined where your audience sits on the knowledge continuum, you can package your presentation to suit them best. LeFever notes a great explanation will always utilize the following six elements:
• Agreement: Start by making a statement with which everyone can agree.
• Context: Clarify why your service/product/idea matters by giving the big picture perspective.
• Story: Deliver meaning by incorporating your explanation into an engaging story.
• Connections: Relate your idea to an older, well-known, or trusted idea.
• Descriptions: Delve into more technical details if your audience understands and is interested.
• Call to Action: Describe the preferred solution to the problem you’ve explained.
“The secret to crafting a great explanation is not necessarily using the right formula, it’s learning to recognize when people can’t grasp an idea and developing a script that solves the problem,” says LeFever.
Thanks to technology, the ways to present information today are endless. With some careful consideration you can pick the medium that best suits your message. Text, images, audio, video, live demonstration, slideshows, and webinars are all good options. If you are delivering your message in person, it can be taped and shared with a larger audience in the future. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, so even though you may think your PowerPoint skills are amazing it may not be the most powerful method.
Remember a solid explanation does more than convey information, it makes the person listening care about your product, idea or cause. By establishing your goals, determining your audience and understanding your own constraints, you will be able to craft a superior and effective explanation.
“A great idea, poorly expressed, ceases to appear great, and the cost is tremendous,” says LeFever. “We all have ideas, products and services that are often of high quality on their own merit. Without a way to explain something effectively, we limit its ability to spread.”Previous Page