Engineers are creative types. They are responsible for dreaming up and building systems that companies will implement or sell, with the goal of improving the bottom line. Because their roles require team building and leadership, engineers must be able to clearly communicate complex ideas and technical project plans. They also need to be strong persuaders to see their designs come to life. Building consensus is a giant step toward delivering a project on time and according to specifications.
Here are a few important communication skills that every engineer should possess, and tips on how to master them.
Many people are intimidated by public speaking. But in the working world, it is a vital skill to be able to talk in front of groups of people, as well as to larger crowds. Being able to communicate ideas freely and confidently affects everyday interactions and can impact career paths. Incorporating relatable, self-deprecating and humorous content engages the audience. Several professional groups offer coaching to help members feel more at ease with public speaking. For example, the nationwide Toastmasters organization offers tips and mentoring to improve speakers’ confidence and abilities. For engineers in particular, this talent is key to sharing ideas at staff meetings, trade shows and conferences.
Engineers need to be able to report their findings in a clear, concise manner. They will be expected to explain how their ideas evolved, why they designed a project as they did, why a project meets current needs and what makes an idea worth investment. Engineers must be able to communicate the level of effort required, the materials necessary and a time estimate of how long the solution will take — from building a prototype to designing for manufacturability to mass production. Further, some engineers’ jobs depend on their being published in prestigious industry journals. Community colleges typically offer business writing classes that can help hone a student’s writing technique.
Speaking with authority
The enemy of any speaker is the audience’s attention span. Engaging presenters have a knack for playing to their audience by being plain-spoken and knowledgeable without being dull or preachy. Understanding the power of the pause — not rushing in to fill every quiet moment with a word — is a particularly useful tactic. In addition, telling a relevant story helps draw in the audience and is effective for explaining a particularly complex subject. Engineers who can articulate their vision for a product and get support from other engineers, as well as management, will reap career benefits. Having thorough knowledge of the subject matter is the most crucial element for being viewed as an expert whose opinion is worthy of attention.
Effective communicators are more likely to be promoted than those who struggle to get their message across. Engineers who are good communicators are recognized by their supervisors and by their clients, which often leads to loyal customers and solid performance reviews.