Speak Like a Pro: The Importance of Effective Communication for Product Designers

Raluca Angelescu
March 6, 2023
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As you progress in your career as a UX/Product Designer, you'll find that you spend less time working with design software such as Figma, and more time focusing on strategic design work, collaborating with your team, and effectively communicating your decisions.

The key to success in this role is the ability to explain the reasoning behind your design choices, support your decisions with data, and communicate your message clearly to others.

Although it's important to have expertise in design software, the most critical skill for your development as a designer is the ability to articulate your design decisions. However, it may be challenging to master this skill. Therefore, in this article, I'll share some concepts that I use to communicate better as a Designer. For each concept, I'll also explain the top three benefits and provide additional resources for those who want to learn more.

Ready to learn more?

Slow down

We've all been there. Whether you're an experienced CEO or a comedian, public speaking can be nerve-wracking. It takes you out of your comfort zone and makes you feel vulnerable. As a result, many of us rush through presentations, trying to get them over with as soon as possible. We dump all the information on the table, hoping that our work is done, without taking the time to ensure that our message has actually been received and understood.

However, if you rush through your presentation, your audience will likely rush through it too. Whether you're trying to persuade your hiring manager, colleague, client, or partner on where to go on vacation, slowing down and allowing others to digest your message can make a huge difference in both your professional and personal life.

So, take a moment before you move on to the next part of your presentation. Give your audience time to process the information you've presented before bombarding them with more data.

What will you gain from this:

✅ Your message will become more clear and actionable;

✅ You show confidence in what you are telling your audience;

✅ You create an environment where questions can be asked, leading to a more efficient and productive meeting

Avoid jargon

When speaking to people who aren't experts in our field, using technical language can backfire. It doesn't make you seem more competent, it just makes it harder for others to follow along.

One way to avoid confusion is to use simpler words when you can. If there are industry-specific terms you need to use, take a little time to define them early on. For example, if you're discussing a financial product, you might need to explain what LTV means.

What will you gain from this:

✅ Your audience will become more engaged simply by the fact that they actually understand what you are saying. After all, it's hard to be interested in something if you don't understand it!

✅ Shows mastery of the subject by simplifying and breaking down complex concepts into easy-to-understand terms.

✅ Making your message more accessible can lead to a more impactful and memorable presentation

Get comfortable with silence

Have you ever noticed how a brief moment of silence during a conversation or a user interview can lead to some of the most insightful comments or thoughts? That's because silence isn't always a bad thing. In fact, it's a time for reflection and evaluation.

However, when it comes to giving presentations, we often feel the need to fill every second with sound, and in doing so, we may miss the chance to say something truly impactful. We may even end up harming our delivery, eroding trust, and missing out on valuable feedback.

What will you gain from this:

✅ You give your audience time to digest your message, reflect on it, and come up with valuable comments.

✅ You connect more with your audience and build trust. You demonstrate that you are willing to listen and take the time to consider the thoughts and opinions of others.

✅ You get some well-deserved time to take a sip of water :)

Write and think more often

Although it may seem counterintuitive, writing can actually be a helpful exercise in improving your ability to express your thoughts. When you put your ideas into words, your brain focuses on them, makes connections, and encourages you to reflect on them instead of getting sidetracked by distractions.

I recommend making a habit of writing at least once a week, or as often as possible. Whether it's an article, a personal update, or a retrospective, putting your thoughts down on paper can have a significant impact. The medium you choose to use doesn't matter.

To take this exercise further, I suggest utilizing various available tools, including AI, to refine your initial drafts. It's important to prioritize getting your thoughts down first, without worrying about making it perfect from the start.

What will you gain from this:

✅ You can benefit from a well-deserved break that allows you to reflect on your work, thought processes, and behaviors.

✅ If you choose to publish your writing, it can also lead to increased social presence.

✅ Furthermore, by actively learning from the suggestions of writing tools and making adjustments accordingly, you can become more articulate over time.

Closing thoughts

If you're looking for additional resources to help you improve your ability to communicate and articulate your design decisions, one highly recommended book is "Articulating Design Decisions" by Tom Greever. This book offers useful principles, tactics, and actionable methods for discussing designs with executives, managers, developers, marketers, and other stakeholders involved in the design process.

To gain inspiration, you may want to examine successful presentations. Reverse engineering can be an effective technique for understanding the process behind effective delivery. For example, you can study Apple's presentations and try to analyze why they are so successful. You can also follow your favorite designers on social media or design blogs.

Watching presentations online can be a great way to learn and gain inspiration, but it doesn't always translate into the same level of skill and confidence when it comes to actually delivering a presentation yourself. Putting yourself in situations where you need to articulate your thoughts and decisions is essential for developing your communication skills. By taking every opportunity you get to present something, talk about a decision, or provide value, you are practicing and honing your skills. You also become more comfortable with public speaking, which can help to reduce anxiety and nervousness.

Additionally, by putting yourself out there and presenting, you open yourself up to feedback and constructive criticism. This can be incredibly valuable in helping you identify improvement areas and grow as a communicator. Seek feedback from your mentor or peers, participate in hackathons, or attend events where you can showcase your designs. With consistent practice and effort, you will eventually develop strong communication skills and become skilled at articulating your design decisions effectively.

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