Explaining Technical Terms to a Non-Technical Audience

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Actuaries have long been recognized as technical experts with an affinity for math and the ability to quantify abstract concepts to determine risk; but the ability to communicate their findings to a non-technical audience does not always come as easily.  


In the past, it was widely accepted (and stereotyped) that communication was a soft skill that many actuaries lacked. Today there is a need for all actuaries to have a good balance of both technical & theoretical skills. To understand the emerging need for this blend of technical & soft skills, we must first understand why it is important to effectively communicate our findings to an audience that doesn’t have a strong technical background.  


Strong communication skills are central to achieving positive business results. Nothing would ever get done if we weren’t properly connecting with colleagues and clients. Communicating our findings to a new audience can help us gain new perspective, not only by reframing the thought to help them understand, but also because helping someone understand the technical information can lead to creative business results and the best forms of collaboration. “It takes a village,” and the village needs to be on the same page if they want results. 


Often, the best way to help someone understand something is by using examples or analogies. Making connections between concepts shows a deeper understanding and with deep understanding comes clarity and dynamic results.  At the 2021 CAS meeting in San Diego, actuaries from Travelers Insurance played on the importance of analogies and put on a “reserving cooking show,” using ingredients and cooking tools to explain the fundamentals of reserving. Not only can this help aspiring actuaries, but it also helped me, as an actuarial recruiter, gain a deeper insight into the functions and collaboration involved in the day-to-day work of an actuary. (Interested in learning more? please click this link)  


When we understand the importance of effective communication, we can begin to see why employers seek this balance. As an actuary, if you are already doing the technical work, isn’t it helpful for colleagues to hear results straight from the source? Having the ability to translate these findings into business solutions is an effective tool for taking ownership of your own work and can lead to better retention.  


Today, it is common for actuaries to have this balanced blend of skills. More actuaries are finding themselves in non-traditional roles with cross-functions that allow them to make an impact. The actuarial community has already taken steps to help the future generation of actuaries learn this balance through mentorship & microlearning. 


Discussion question:  

Do you think we are seeing more actuaries with this balance of skills given the abundance of platforms and social interactions in our day- to- day from Social Media?


By: Marilyn Simpson, Recruiter