ISE 640 DISC 8-4

Southern New Hampshire University **We aren't endorsed by this school
ISE 640
Nov 19, 2023
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Attempting to effectively communicate technical information to a non-technical audience is a necessary challenge that anybody involved with IT will inevitably face at some point. Imagine trying to give a lecture in English to a group of people whose first language is not English. It would be frustrating for all parties concerned, but worse, it would be a wasted opportunity for real communication and an open invitation to misunderstanding. Technical jargon to somebody not enmeshed in that world is akin to a foreign language. A balance has to be struck that allows for full delivery of essential information while preserving clarity for the audience. This process begins by resisting the urge to make assumptions about the audience (Bruzzese, n.d.). It can become tempting to assume that other people possess a knowledge base comparable to your own. If you deal with technical information on a daily basis for years, it ceases to be technical information. Obscure terms and arcane acronyms that are second nature to a technical expert will be off putting to somebody who operates in another realm. In more specific terms, it is safe to assume that an audience is familiar with email, but that same audience is far less likely to understand a discussion of POP packet filtering via Wireshark. Communicate via analogy, narrative, and process, rather than jargon (Cser, 20). Drifting into jargon is a good way of making an audience mentally tune out the message. Once you lose that engagement it is very difficult to get it back. There are numerous strategies to maintain audience engagement. The first one is to bring the information down to the practical level and hit the audience where they live (Bruzzese, n.d.). Focus your communication on how your information impacts them. Know the audience, anticipate their concerns and questions, and use your presentation to provide answers (Bruzzese, n.d.). But in answering those questions, replace jargon with more common terminology and resist the urge to explain things just because you know how
they work. It is unlikely the audience cares. If my car breaks down and the mechanic tells me the transmission needs to be replaced, I am interested in repair options, cost, and how to prevent it from happening again. I don't need to be fully informed about the innerworkings of an automatic transmission to understand the implications of it failing. A c- suite is likely to have a similar response in the wake of a cyber incident. The focus should be on the what, not the how (Cser, 20). Another tactic is to play it straight with the audience and level the playing field from the onset of the report (Bruzzese, n.d.). In other words, don't talk down to the audience. Jargon can be intimidating, but don't lapse into condescension. In this example, we are communicating with a c-suite level group. One must assume we are dealing with intelligent and likely very educated individuals. Their lack of knowledge about the inner workings of an IDS is not indicative of their intelligence, any more than a techie's ignorance of brickwork would be indicative of their intelligence. We all operate within our own spheres of expertise. Acknowledge that up front and attempt to craft your message to overlap with the audience's sphere. The audience needs your expertise to do their jobs, and your expertise is irrelevant without somebody vested in its usage and implications. If a program has to be named or a technical term employed, explain it briefly by context. There is no advantage to playing linguistic gymnastics to avoid using a specific term, but don't let them become the focus of the message. One must also take care to try and not do too much with any one report or presentation (Bruzzese, n.d.). Keep the audience in one place and don't lapse into tangents or digressions. Needlessly complicating an already complex subject matter is not helpful to either presenter or audience. Not unrelated to this is the necessity of not turning a presentation into a data dump (Bruzzese, n.d.). Just because you have information does not necessarily mean it needs to
be shared, at least not in the main body of a document. Appendices were invented for a reason. Stick with the most important facts, numbers, statistics, etc.-the ones that emphasize those practical points we discussed above. Supporting points can be detailed in an appendix for those people who have an interest. Keep the focus of everything you do on the business (Cser, 20). That c-suite is there to learn what broke and how to fix it, not take a class in computer science. I have seen numerous sources that suggest the use of visuals to illustrate and simplify complex points, which I agree with to an extent. It is my personal experience that great care has to be taken when using graphs and charts in a presentation- whether a written report or a live presentation. Just because something can be represented in a chart or graph doesn't mean it should be (Shaw, 23). Nor does it necessarily add clarity. Use visuals where they make sense and backstop those visuals with the underlying data in the appendices. I may be displaying personal bias in this area, but I have been saddled with too many reports in my career where illustrations took the place of explanation to a degree that detracted from the quality of the information and left me more confused than just hearing the numbers would have. Properly used visual aids are a tremendous asset, but when used as a crutch by somebody who lacks the ability to explain something in words, I generally find them to be a distraction. Bruzzese, A. (n.d.) How to Explain Technical Information to Non-Techies. Career Management Center. Retrieved on 11/5/23 from w-to-explain-technical-information-to-non-techies/ Cser, T. (2020, January 29) How to deliver a technical presentation to a non-technical audience. Functionize. Retrieved on 11/5/23 from technical-presentation-to-a-non-technical-audience
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