Hannah Carmody
Hannah Carmody

Posted on: January 22, 2015

In Strategy


I have a confession. When I first started my career in digital project management I Googled what people said constantly. Everything from “high level” to “cron job” was included in my browser history. I know, “high level” is a little embarrassing. Nonetheless, over the years I have improved my digital (and business) vocabulary and it is now second nature to me. Synergy.

I often have to remind myself that many of my clients don’t speak this digital language. For example, while the term “API” is the most succinct way of describing some types of integrations, if it doesn’t mean anything to your client it’s a waste of breath. It is our job in client services to be the client’s Google. We need to break down very technical language into something that’s easily digestible. Set a common ground, and then build context.

I find that metaphors work wonders in this sense. If we go back to our good friend API I would describe this as a pathway (or even as a tube if you want to be really visual) built for specific information to travel from point a to point b. Different information may need to use different pathways and new pathways may need to be built for new needs. Will your developer roll their eyes? Maybe, but that’s ok. You, as the project manager, are there to communicate, and sometimes metaphors are the right tool. Connecting ideas to something the audience already understands gets to comprehension that much faster.

You’ll find that the more times you explain things the better you get at doing it. I’m talking about practice. Sometimes you need to forget what you know. It’s important to remember what it’s like when you were doing it for the first time.

Take the initiative and start with the explanation instead of waiting for the question. Google has auto-complete to anticipate needs, and so should you. Empower your clients to expand their knowledge base by guiding them through the often confusing digital landscape. They will be thankful that you did.

Are you interested in learning more about how to explain things to your clients? Check out this resource from Lee Lefever.

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