How an Engineer can improve explaining ideas orally
Updated: Nov 2, 2019
This came up as a question on reddit rerecently and I thought the strategy I shared there would have some value to include here.
I started out with trying to explain back concepts from senior engineers. If I asked them about how something works I would try break it down and explain it back to them to see if it makes sense.
This has the benefit of practicing breaking down concepts. then you can try explain that concept to your peers and then the real challenge, to someone non technical.
The better you get at this the more confident you are in answering questions and conversing. Because what will happen is someone will be explaining something technical and others not understanding, you will recognise this and be able to offer an alternate explanation that may help. Boom. You’re one of those better communicator people already.
I worked on this and am confident speaking to many types. My next step is leveling up to larger amounts of people. I’ve spoken on technical stuff a few times to customers in sizes of like 20 people. I did fine because it is an engineering audience but I realised I needed more.
So I started a podcast to try and keep leveling that up and it forces me to try and formalise my thoughts, explain things simpler and more concisely and improve my own speech. It’s recorded in one go so I have to think and speak at the same time. I also started writing small pieces and articles for internal documentation maybe how to or why to do one way or another and what I’ve learned is you are usually nervous speaking on a topic only if you are unsure. Or only 80% sure.
If you know it, and really know it and know you can explain it to a 5 year old or to a senior engineer you have a world more confidence. And I find if I’ve written about It before I can explain it better because I have formally before and it wasn’t just in my head.
And you know clearly what is out of scope. You can simply say “I only can speak to this part of your question” and scope line it out. Then say feel free to reach out to me after this and I can find you the right answer.
I hope this helps.
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