Writing Technical Information for Non-Technical People

A while ago, a LinkedIn user complained that his non-technical audience insisted on understanding a technical issue but became frustrated or bored whenever he went into detail. This problem occurs in written materials as well: websites, manuals, reports, newsletters, presentations–wherever technical information is relayed to a non-technical audience. The solution?

First, as a technical presenter, whether speaking or writing, you have to understand that your idea of an adequate explanation is quite different from your non-technical audience’s. They do not want to become you. They hired or brought your product or service because you because you know more than they want to know about the subject.

Second, recognize that your audience’s concerns are not entirely aligned with yours. You want an technically elegant product; they want a solution to their problem. Think about the level of information you want from your doctor. You don’t want a medical degree in histology; you may not even want to know details of a procedure. You want to know what’s wrong with you in everyday language, what your options are and how soon you’ll feel better.

Third, when you must deliver details, it helps to use analogies, comparing the technical situation to something nontechnical. For example, “this process control simulator works like a video game; people think they are controlling the real plant but they aren’t.”

Fourth, use pictures. People understand diagrams, photographs and tables where words confuse them.

If you are having trouble translating technical information into everyday language, email me. I have 20+ years of experience writing white papers, websites, manuals, brochures, newsletters and proposals that communicate technical information clearly to non-technical people.