Breaking It Down: A Data Scientist's Guide to Simplifying the Complex for Non-Techies

data data science news May 08, 2023
Data science robot talking with a non-techie

Communication in Data Science: How I Learned to Translate Geek-Speak

In a recent previous post, "Communication in Data Science: How I Learned to Translate Geek-Speak," I explored the importance of effectively communicating complex data science concepts to our colleagues. Building on that foundation, we now present a treasure trove of tips to help you – the data scientist extraordinaire – present intricate ideas to non-technical audiences with ease and finesse.

How Data Scientists Can Translate Geek Speak

  • Craft a compelling narrative: Weave a story around your data by employing "The Hero's Journey" framework. This narrative structure, widely used in storytelling, describes a hero who embarks on an adventure, faces and overcomes a crisis, and then returns home transformed. By applying this framework to your data presentation, you can create a captivating and relatable story that captures your audience's attention.

Example: Describe how your data-driven solution (the hero) embarks on a journey to solve a critical business problem, faces challenges along the way, and ultimately returns triumphant, resulting in significant improvements for the company.

  • Simplify with analogies: Analogies are a powerful tool for breaking down complex ideas into easily digestible bits. By drawing parallels to everyday situations, you can guide your audience through the labyrinth of data science concepts with ease.

Example: Explain a neural network as a group of interconnected detectives working together to solve a crime. Each detective specializes in a specific aspect of the case and shares their findings with the others, enabling the team to reach a collective conclusion.

  • Visualize the data: A picture is worth a thousand words – or in this case, a thousand data points. Use simple charts, graphs, and other visual aids to represent your findings in an easily digestible format. Preview your visualizations with trusted colleagues to ensure they effectively convey your message and receive valuable feedback for improvements.

  • Set expectations with your audience: Although it can be intimidating, asking your audience about their preferences regarding format, length, timing, and pacing can be incredibly beneficial. This information will help you tailor your presentation to their needs, ensuring a more successful outcome.

Another analogy: Think of it like a restaurant asking patrons about their dietary restrictions before serving them a meal – it ensures a more enjoyable experience for everyone involved.

  • Demystify buzzwords: Buzzwords can be a mixed blessing. While they can help bridge the communication gap, they can also create confusion. When your audience expects buzzwords, use them but take the opportunity to educate your listeners. Provide a "quick reference" sheet of key terms and phrases for your audience to take home, allowing them to revisit the concepts later and deepen their understanding.
  •  Encourage questions and interaction: Create a welcoming environment for questions and discussion by providing attendees with a blank sheet of paper to jot down their queries.

Example: Offer to collect the sheets, review the questions, and then distribute any added insights or clarifications via email as a follow-up.

As a data scientist, the ability to present complex concepts in an accessible manner is crucial for collaboration and project success. You have to know how to translate geek speak.

To recap, consider crafting a compelling narrative using The Hero's Journey framework, simplifying concepts with analogies, visualizing data with simple and effective graphics, setting expectations with your audience, demystifying buzzwords, and encouraging questions and interaction. And while it's a widely known recommendation, don't forget the importance of knowing your audience – it's the foundation upon which you build your presentation.

By following these tips and honing your communication skills, you'll be well on your way to becoming an expert in translating the wonders of data science for non-technical audiences. So go forth, break down those barriers, and illuminate the world with your data-driven insights!



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