Sunday, December 17, 2006

On Being A Teacher

Seth Godin had an interesting post tonight. He was talking about dealing with the naive prospect for your business. He pointed out that some businesses will experience this more than others and provided some tips on how to deal with these prospects.

I've had some experience with naive clients. Not all of them, and certainly not stupid by any means, just uninformed as to what exactly I can provide for them. My work is fairly technical. Web development, for those in the know, is no more complicated, really, than writing a document using a word processor. To those outside our world, though, it is more akin to the Dark Arts.

So, how do I deal with the naive client or prospect? First and foremost, as Seth mentions in his list, I avoid the use of jargon. If I use a single three-letter acronym, I'm almost guaranteed to lose the person with whom I am chatting. Believe it or not, the word "blog" is often enough, even, to set the average neophyte on the run.

Second, I try to provide very short, non-technical analogies. In general, I try to liken anything that I describe to some sort of real-world equivalent. Of course, the analogy isn't always accurate, but I would rather they understand that a "blog" is a public online journal first. Later I can explain all of the other myriad possibilities which it offers. Education by a process of successive approximation.

Third, I try to inject a little fun. Do you remember kindergarten? We learned a lot then, but most of it was disguised as play. I try to tell a story or two, especially if the main character is someone with whom my audience can identify. Heck, telling people I meet that I'm the "international superhero known as the Webmaster" is designed to make them laugh and help them feel more comfortable around me. After all, I'm here to "rescue" lost souls, right?

I guess the bottom line is to put yourself in their shoes. We've all been confronted by a highly technical and/or confusing topic in our life. Remember what that felt like, and you are more likely to show compassion for those who are lost in your neck of the woods.

So, how would you describe what you do so that I would understand?

15 days.

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