Socrates once said, “The more I know, the more I realise I know nothing.” This is true for analysts. Our role is to question everything and assume nothing. We have more data than most but not as much as we would like, we have lots of knowledge but are uncomfortably aware of the gaps. Our statistical knowledge means we can accurately measure probability but also means we know we can never be 100% certain of anything. When communicating our insight this awareness can come across as doubt, and if we appear doubtful it is hard to build trust.
Conversely, it can be much easier to be confident from a position of ignorance. Without absolute proof we are talking from a position of belief. Our beliefs may be wrong or right, but when we talk about our beliefs we come across as confident.
Great insight can challenge beliefs, this can pose difficulties for engagement. If we are not careful the people we are challenging can sound much more confident than us.
This sounds like an impossible challenge, but I regularly see analysts making a real difference. From speaking to these analysts, I have come to realise that they have the same doubts as the rest of us. Communicating with confidence is something that they have to work at.
How can we sound more confident?
1. Communicate from a position of confidence – Focus on what we do know rather than what we don’t. For example, statistical analysis will give us a margin of error which means there is a level of uncertainty on the exact figure we are quoting. For those without a statistical knowledge this can erode confidence. Instead we can focus on what we are certain of and focus on the limits of the margin of error, use language like at least, or at most. This gives your audience the figure they need to make their decision and gives them the confidence that this is right.
2. Plan our communications – Think about the core message we are trying to convey and how we are going to communicate it. Before I do a major presentation, I find it useful to script what I am going to say. I never follow the script as this would sound unnatural, but the act of writing it down forces me to reflect carefully on what I want to say and how I want to say it.
3. Understand our stakeholders – Focus on their areas of doubts and address those; don’t add our doubts into the mix.
4. Keep it brief and focussed – One of the biggest challenges for analysts is to know when to shut up and stop talking. We want to have all the facts and data and assume that everybody is the same. We expect our audience to become analysts to understand our presentation. What we are actually doing is giving our audience the same doubts that we have but without the tools, time and techniques to work through these. Give our audience just the facts and information they need to make a decision and nothing more. Let them trust us to be the analysts.
5. Practice –Effective communication does not come naturally, you need to practice. Before going into a major presentation try it out with your colleagues, get their feedback. Each time we share an idea or do a presentation, take time to reflect on what went well and what you could have done better. Where possible take a colleague into the meeting with you to watch the room and share their observations with you.
I look forward to seeing you at the conference in a few weeks and I hope I come across more confident than I feel. From my experiences presenting over the last few years I have learned that this self-doubt is normal and healthy. I will be joined by extremely knowledgeable presenters and as Socrates pointed out being knowledgeable drives self-doubt. This is something we need to embrace as it forces us to be aware of ourselves and our audience and to prepare thoroughly.
If you have any comments/thoughts please share on the LinkedIn article.
Published Date: 30/08/2019