How to Communicate your ideas

Know your audience and learn what matters to them

How to Communicate your ideas

Imagine you’re working really hard on a project. You worked each day of the week, even the weekends- just to finish it within the deadline. You sent it to your manager for feedback and now you’re waiting anxiously. You have zero ideas how the manager will react. 

The feedback came. And it’s brutal. They rejected each and every single one of your ideas, even the ones which you thought were essential. You don’t understand at all. “Why did they reject such essential ideas? They’re sitting in the manager’s chair so they certainly aren’t stupid.

“Oh, no!” Imposter Syndrome chimes in. “Are these actually bad ideas? Am I stupid?

They rejected your ideas because they were not sticking.

As a designer, your job is often to present ideas to other people. Be it a client, your direct team, or your whole company. 

So if you want to level up in your career, you have to be able to communicate your decisions, convincingly present your designs, talk to clients, and handle negative feedback well.

It might seem like a tall order to ace, but you can make strides by focusing on just a few essential areas - 

Know your audience

Avoid the Curse of Knowledge

One of the main reasons we might struggle to present our thoughts, works, and products, is that all too often we fall prey to the ‘curse of knowledge’.

“Curse of Knowledge” is a cognitive bias that occurs when we communicate with others in a way that assumes they have the same context and background knowledge as we do.

You obviously have more background knowledge on the project you’ve been working on, and you were so immersed in the project, that you didn’t stop to think how all of those features would look to someone seeing your project for the first time. Ultimately this dissonance causes a usability issue.

So as you present your next idea or concept, take a step back and think: Would someone who has NEVER seen this product before understand what’s going on here?

Switch Your Focus

As you present your new concept, take a step back and think: are you presenting what the other team really needs to know, or are you blabbering in UX jargon even if they don't understand?

Stop thinking ‘What do I want to talk about’ and ‘What’s interesting for me’ and start asking yourself ‘What do they need to hear?’ 

Learn the Business Lingo

The ability to take in the bigger business picture, understand business motives, and what other teams are talking about is one of the crucial differences between a junior and a senior designer.

It’s also what gets you a seat at the table and an invitation to strategy discussions ;)

Leverage the Elevator Pitch Structure

There’s a reason startup founders use the ‘elevator pitch’ when communicating about their product or pitching for investment. 

Using the elevator pitch structure forces you to synthesize what you want to say down to the main, essential points. It also forces you to re-work those main points into a punchy package that makes people interested in learning more. 

Here’s a simple Elevator Pitch Structure -

  • Start with a Problem.
    Even if you think everyone knows, still take a second to paint the picture. Explain which problem you're tackling, WHY it is important, and why it can't be fixed by the existing thing.

  • Present your Solution.
    Now is your time to shine. Explain why you'd solve the problem in this particular way and what benefits it has compared to other ways. Also, show some proof like user testing results.

  • Raise the Concerns.
    A lot of designers skip this part too often. Handle the main concerns. Handle the elephant in the room.

Ditch the ‘Feature’ Talk

We designers love to talk about new and awesome features. 

But regardless of which project you’re working on, the end goal of UX Design is to make the process more enjoyable and natural for the end customer. and All UX alterations have an end-business goal behind them.

So what do you think has a higher chance of getting the CEO’s approval (who’s likely not a UX expert),
a customer benefit that will boost orders by 30%
OR
an abstract feature description that is a ‘nice to have’?

TL;DR

Communicating your ideas in a clear way, assuming that the person you’re talking to has less information on the subject, so you have to be even more clear, and understandable. 

By focusing on your communication, you won’t have to fight and defend your work to stakeholders, your words will have higher value and you’ll be able to talk efficiently to anyone - be it the developer or the manager or the intern - everyone will feel like they’re a part of the process. 

Your ideas will be taken seriously and you’ll find it easier navigating through your career. 

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