Two Minutes or Less
Two minutes isn’t a long time. But if you’re listening to someone explain a concept you can’t decipher, it can seem like eternity.
As web developers, we have a tendency to use our industry terminology too often. Clients don’t need jargon. Jargon is a wall, built to keep the uninitiated out. That’s not what we want.
When we explain things to clients, try not to make it sound like alphabet soup. Describe things in a way that is easy for them to understand.
This initial level of understanding will vary from client to client. If you are working with a client who is WordPress savvy, all the better. But you should still refrain from going overboard with the developer-speak. Always gauge each person for what they are familiar with and what they are not. I’ve found that explaining any particular concept is most effective if done in two minutes or less.
Why Two Minutes?
Funny you should ask. It turns out that my partner in crime, Amy, is a good representation of many non-tech-savvy people. She’s comfortable with her iPhone and laptop, but isn’t really obsessed with learning about their inner workings. She understands more today than she did five years ago, but she also has been with me through each step of my web development journey.
Your clients don’t have five years to familiarize themselves with your world.
It’s funny, I can always tell when I’m losing Amy’s attention when I prattle on about web concepts. I can almost see the exact moment she starts to tune out, as her eyes begin to glaze over. As a courtesy, she’ll give me about ten seconds more to get to the point, and then she’ll simply state, “OK, I’m done.–
That’s how I know I’m not explaining things in a concise enough manner.
Talking to people is more of an art than a science. No two people are the same. Their experiences, their mindset, their biases are all unique. In order to communicate effectively with others — to reach them and have real influence, we have to start by listening.
There’s an old saying that says “you have two ears and one mouth, so listen twice as much as you talk”. There’s a quote from one of my favorite movies that asks, “Do people really listen to you, or are they waiting for their turn to speak?” In order to be trusted allies and advisors to our clients (or anyone in life), we need to quick to listen, and slow to form finalized judgements. We must leave our cognitive and social biases at the door, and look at every new project with an inquisitive mind and an unmuddled perspective. Like Dale Carnegie said, being genuinely interested in other people is the key to understanding them and gaining their trust.
People are more familiar with technology than they were in the past. But that doesn’t mean it’s not intimidating to them.
We’re here to empower people. Confusing clients with too much jargon works against that.
Some basic terminology is okay, but don’t make it an insurmountable barrier. If you can eliminate jargon in your client conversations altogether, then by all means do it.