A confused mind says no

“A confused mind always says no.”

If you are seeking to persuade someone, it is essential for your message to be clear and fully understood. If your audience doesn’t understand or is uncertain, they are likely to say no rather than being seen to make a mistake.

The complexities of OSS implementations make it very easy to confuse your audience – different terminologies/jargon, different domains of expertise, different levels of expertise, different levels of product knowledge, etc.

This particularly true for OSS vendor evaluations. The potential customer will invariably have limited understanding of the vendor’s products and will often use entirely different terminologies to the vendor. The vendor’s product will often have a dazzling array of functions and the vendor will be keen to show as many off as possible. Unfortunately this can easily lead to confusion for the customer and if you’re the vendor, you don’t want them saying no.

This article by Chris Witt provides seven examples of how to avoid confusion, as follows:

  1. Show people the larger picture
  2. Keep it short and simple
  3. Tell people what you’re going to tell them
  4. Show people how to use your material
  5. Help people make a choice (Give them two or three options – no more)
  6. Tell people what you want them to do
  7. Keep it conversational

There are three others that I’ve found extremely helpful for avoiding confusion when implementing OSS:

  1. Explain it with pictures
  2. Explain it with analogies that everyone is familiar with (eg describing signal multiplexing using a water pipe analogy)
  3. Tell it with stories

These are powerful, yet underutilised. The first two are self-explanatory but the third may need further justification. If we again use the product evaluation scenario, the story is an important one. Rather than just showing isolated features of a product, if you can present a simplified process as a story and demonstrate a sequence of features, even if the audience doesn’t catch every nuance what you’re demonstrating, they’ll follow the general story line.

What techniques do you use to avoid confusion?

Read the Passionate About OSS blog for more.

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