Monday, June 7, 2010

What's Your Frame of Reference?

I spent a large part of this last weekend attending various sessions at the annual "It's My Heart" conference on Congenital Heart Defects (my youngest daughter is a CHD survivor - and she and her mother are very active in trying to raise CHD awareness).

As the majority of the sessions were hosted by various members of the medical profession, I expected them to be freely peppered with jargon (see my last post), but what really caught my attention was the frequent referencing of names and research to an audience, that, no matter how educated they had made themselves on various aspects of CHD, could not follow the point being made.

This group of medical professionals knew they would be speaking to an audience of lay-people whose own experiences lay outside those of the medical staff they interact with on a day-to-day basis; but no adjustment was made to accommodate that.

The first rule of any sort of communication is know your audience and adjust as necessary. While the various surgeons did explain a lot of technical information, references to other supporting material and research remained obscure.

This made me think about my own techniques when presenting. My public speaking tends to fall into two camps, the corporate communications world, and the creative side of pop-culture. I know I often make pop-culture references when I talk about corporate communications, but now I wonder am I assuming too much that my audience will understand them?

Adjusting for the audience is not just about vocabulary and jargon, it's also about adjusting your own frame of reference.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

If your corporate communications listeners will get the pop culture references, and if you're comfortable with making them part of your personal brand, then go for it. I for one would have no trouble with any Beatles reference you made. ;-)

If you're ever unsure of whether they'll get it, you can always ask one or two trusted friends.

I've often heard that the most effective technique is telling a story -- which happens to be one of your strong suits, Alan. As I read your article I thought what a shame it was that the doctors missed such an opportunity. Surely they could've shared some great stories about CHD treatments -- stories that would've touched their listeners instead of leaving them in the dark.