Your Audience Probably Does not Know What you Know – Translate, Translate, Translate

Let’s try this again…

Do not assume your audience – your audience when you speak; your readers when you write – know what you know. Do not assume that they understand your words the way you understand them when you write or speak them. Do not assume that they have your same background knowledge.

Here’s the latest example. It is funny; witty; and true. Matt Weinberger is a game reviewer, and wrote this article for Business Insider:  I’m a hardcore gamer who knows nothing about football — here’s what I thought playing Madden the first time.

The article is filled with reminders that American football is just a little foreign to him. But, here’s my favorite paragraph:

I got talked into playing in a fantasy-football league with friends last year, where I drafted six kickers. I figured the more kickers the better, because … you know. “Foot”-ball. I still don’t fully understand why I was wrong.

We’ve all read many articles on the danger of not translating “jargon.” But now, the word “jargon” has become a little too common a use of jargon, so let me state the issue clearly: you too have a specialized vocabulary that has to be translated to your listeners and readers.

So… for every e-mail and report you write, and for every speech and presentation you give, ask yourself, over and over and over again, what does some member of my audience not know that I assume he or she knows?

And, by the way, there is almost always someone in your audience who is new to the company, new to the industry, or did not pay good attention at school, or was not fully awake during on-boarding orientation. In other words, there is always someone you need to bring up to speed – always.

Translate, translate, translate!



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