You spoke about a certain topic. You wrote about it, too. You even drew pictures explaining more. But will your audience understand and relate to information you are trying to convey? The best way I know to find out is by asking.
Here are some examples about how-to:
- Teach-back, for in-person communication. After talking about a certain topic, confirm that the other person understands by using a technique called teach-back. Start by putting responsibility on yourself, such as “I want to make sure I explained this clearly.” Then ask the other person to tell you in her own words what you just discussed. You might do this by asking a question like, “When talking with your son tonight, what will you tell him about this test you are going to have?” Then confirm what’s right and clarify what isn’t yet clear.
- Feedback, for written and web communication. It takes a team to create an understandable document or website. Team members should include 1) one or more subject matter experts, 2) a plain language writer who knows how to communicate clearly, and 3) several people representing the intended audience. Ask the team for general feedback along with specific questions such as, “Is ____ a term you think our readers will understand?”
- Advisory boards, for opinions over time. Chances are that some of your projects evolve over time. In such cases, I find it invaluable to work with a team of advisors who know your audience and goals, understand the topic, and agree to periodically provide feedback. I do just that with a team of volunteer Health Literacy Consulting Advisors. Every once in a while I send them a short email asking specific questions such as about my newsletter or podcasts. Recently, I asked for ideas about Health Literacy Month. Within a week or so, they shared many great suggestions for a new theme, graphics, and tagline. I think all of us would agree that this process was fun, worthwhile, easy, and amazing. Thanks Health Literacy Consulting Advisors!
More ways to learn:
- Teach-back (HLOL #129). A podcast interview with Dr. Dean Schillinger about this technique to arrive at shared meaning.
- Health Literacy Consulting “What’s New” e-newsletter. Sign up for free to receive to learn about the latest tips, podcast, and health literacy news.
- Health Literacy Month. A global campaign to raise awareness about the need for understandable health communication.