My Newsletter Vol. 28

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When you explain your product and service to someone, you assume that someone has some basic knowledge about the product, service, industry and so on. A lot of times, without those basic pieces of knowledge, your explanation makes no sense to someone. Over 20 years ago, I had the honor to provide translation to Dr. Nicholas Negroponte at COMDEX to about 500 Japanese computer professionals. Dr. Negroponte is the founder of MIT Media Lab and he was going to talk about digital video streaming. This was before the Internet.

They're supposed to be 3 translators providing translation but 2 others did not show up, so I had to do the translation all by myself for an hour. So before his session had begun, I introduced myself to Dr. Negroponte and asked if there is something I should know about what he was going to say. He said “I am not going to talk technical things. Also, I talk very slow, so you should have no problem.”

Then the session has started. For the first few minutes, he introduced himself and what he was working on. I had no problem translating. Then he started to talk about digital video streaming ... He completely lost me. For the next 60 minutes, I really had no idea what he was saying. That was the longest 60 minutes of my life. I really felt bad for those who had to listen to me for 60 minutes.

I was told I did a good job translating from some of the people attended the session. I am sure Dr. Negroponte spoke at a very elementary level, but his elementary level was a lot higher than what I was able to translate.

My point here is that “please do not assume your audience understand your language.”


Prepare your speech like when you are talking to your mother or even grandmother.
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