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8 Tips for Translating Tech to an End User


Could you explain virtualization in a single sentence that an 8-year-old child could understand? (Assuming, of course, that 8 year-old isn’t an IT pro.)

Yes? You’re just showing off. Move on, then. Class dismissed.

No? That’s fine.

Depending on the size of your organization, you are responsible not only for deploying a new system, appliance, or network, but also training end users. You know your system better than anyone, which is exactly why you’re the best (and worst) person to communicate how to use it.

If you’re involved in rolling out a state-of-the-art system, here are a few tips to help you make sure you effectively get the message out to your end users.

1. Share a clear outline for your training.

Just as you plan for your training, plan for their training. Be clear about what you’re going to cover, what it means to your end-user student, what they are going to learn, and how they can get help after the training. Setting up a clear outline also will help you focus on what users really need to know.

2. Focus on what users really need to know.

You may know all sorts of “interesting” facts about your system, but your users only need to know a core set of features. Build your training plan based on that core set.

For instance, you may consider yourself to be a proficient Microsoft Office user, but you probably only use a fraction of the features in Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and Excel.

If you’re having trouble paring down the facts and features, start talking with your end users, and pick a user ally.

3. Pick user allies.

Make use of insights from experienced users. Get their input on your training materials and how they will resonate. Do a dry run of your training with them before you do live training. That’ll help you smooth out rough parts, and stop you when you’re being too technical.

4. Don’t use technical terms.

As an IT pro, you are awash in a sea of acronyms.

Think back to the CompTIA A+ certification. There’s a reason there are hundreds of IT term flashcards associated with those exams. It takes awhile to get acquainted with the lingo, so avoid using overly technical terms that might confuse an end user.

At the same time, don’t dumb it down too much. There are other tools you can use to explain tough technical concepts.

5. Use analogies and familiar concepts.

If you are introducing new and sophisticated capabilities, simplify them by finding analogies that make sense to the users. Whenever possible, connect with them using concepts they already know. Or real-world situations.

Having trouble? We wrote a post earlier this year about how to explain virtualization to end users, clients, and your non-IT friends using movies, analogies, and, um, citrus fruits. You’ll get the idea.

6. Educate, don’t condescend.

You know more about your system than the end users ever will, but you don’t need to prove it. Just share the information as if you are speaking to one of your peers and make it relevant to them. Don’t be the Saturday Night Live IT guy.

7. Peel the layers of the onion!

If you have complex concepts to explain, start at a high level and make sure they understand that, before you drill down for further detail. This is exactly how we, at CBT Nuggets, teach the most complicated IT concepts.

For instance, in our CompTIA Network+ training Keith Barker uses analogies, pneumonic devices, and games to teach complex, technical concepts to folks who have as little as nine months of practical experience. Take a few minutes to watch some of Keith’s course. He does it well.

8. Be like Keith (Barker).

You can find no better trainer model than our own Keith Barker. Keith’s YouTube channel is a good source of ideas for how to explain complex technology in an engaging and effective way.

Even as an IT pro, you may comprehend only a small part of how our interconnected world really works! So spare a thought for the average end-user (or even the new guy in the office), who struggles with the nuts and bolts of the cloud, virtual desktop, or VoIP.

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