Here’s an idea to help you become even more persuasive.
I’m a mean person.
I’m constantly challenging technical experts to clarify their meaning.
After all, it’s too easy for leaders in their field to shovel technical information in our faces like so much manure. And like manure that information piles up fast and smells the more you try to spread it around.
Whoa there, Mr. or Mrs. Know-it-all. Put the shovel down. Let’s rake that manure of information more meaningfully to fertilize your audience’s thinking instead of burying them under still another shovel full. That’s what the most effective leaders I have known do.
They put their information in FORMATION –in perspective –so that a wider range of audiences/followers can better assess, understand and apply their expertise, their point of view, their key message.
Imagine trying to communicate the concept of the vastness of the Universe. Do you talk about light years or billions of stars? Sure if you’re communicating to other astronomers. But what if you are trying to reach a larger audience (investors, foundations, grant decision makers etc.)? Then you speak in visual metaphors the way physicist Stephen Hawking did in his book: A Briefer History of Time :
“If a star were a grain of salt, you could fit all the stars visible to the naked eye on a teaspoon. But all the stars in the universe would fill a ball more than 8 miles wide.” (p.53)
Let’s peek into a college astronomy freshman class and see how this teacher/leader is helping a student better grasp the concept of a light year. The student knows the definition of a light year as the distance light travels in one year. But he wonders: “How far is that anyway?”
Making abstract concepts more concrete is a critical skill of the most effective leaders. The most effective leaders develop meaningful and memorable analogies. Read on to refresh your thinking on constructing an analogy that your followers can follow.
186,282 Miles Per Second
How far is a light year? About 6 trillion miles. The astronomy professor guided the student in processing the calculation with these steps:
Light travels at 186,282 miles per second.
There are 86,400 seconds in day.
Multiply steps 1 and 2 and you get the number of miles light travels in a day.
Multiply that daily distance by 365 days and you get the number of miles light travels in a year.
“I did all that and I get 5.87 trillion,” said the student. “So a light year is 5.87 trillion miles. But what’s a trillion? “