I spent much of this weekend at the local No Fluff, Just Stuff conference watching (and critiquing, of course) folks speaking. Like most of us, these folk were not speakers first, but people with a passion who became speakers because others wanted to hear about their passion and what they knew.While the topic of the conference is not something I spend much spare time on (heck, I couldn’t even understand what some of these folks were talking about — they had acronyms for acronyms for stuff I don’t even understand), it’s always amazing to me to watch folks with a passion get together. For me, this would be equivalent to attending Oshkosh. For these folks, listening to 90 minutes discussing why Spring sprung and they took Rails instead of the Bus and couldn’t find the Ruby (I hate it that they lost the ruby — it sounded valuable) was something that really got them excited. And they didn’t look like a particular athletic bunch, but they kept talking about being agile and extreme, so perhaps I just misread them. They were a clean bunch, judging from how much they used Ajax, and everyone seemed to be retro — they all talked about Groovy.If you recognize all these topics (not from my description, but context), you’ve identified your niche (and likely your profession). If you think I’m rambling, you probably needn’t register for NFJS, and you likely don’t hang out with computer geeks (anyone offended by the term geek likely isn’t one) much. But you might not understand me and my flying buddies talking about the MDA on the ILS as we come out of IMC looking for the VASI, either.There is a danger whenever we assume our audience knows what we are talking about. Maybe they do. And maybe they don’t. Acronyms are troublesome because they assume prior knowledge. And while facts and overviews are nice, most folks really want to know the implications and what something means. It’s a communicator’s job to put the facts and the context in terms the audience can understand. Speakers whose goal is to share what they know have forgotten Rule #1, and likely are smart folks who bore (or lose) audiences easily.

Make sure your audience can speak your language.