Communicate Effectively to a Variety of Audiences

Mike Meador suggests identifying your audience, and the objectives for your communication
Mike Meador at Biltmore Estates, Ashville, N.C., December 2021
Mike Meador at Biltmore Estates, Ashville, N.C., December 2021
Image credit: Mary Ann Meador

Michael A. Meador received a B.A. in chemistry from Ithaca College (1978) and a PhD in organic chemistry from Michigan State University (1983).  

In 2019, he retired after a 35+ year career in the federal government during which he held a variety of positions, including Chief of the NASA Glenn Polymers Branch (1988-2011), Manager of the NASA Game Changing Development Program’s Nanotechnology Project (2011-2014), and NASA Program Element Manager for Lightweight Materials and Manufacturing (2016-2019). 

From 2014-2016, he served as Director of the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Throughout his career he has been involved in various aspects of R&D planning, including leading a NASA-wide team that developed NASA’s Nanotechnology Roadmap – a 25+ year plan for the development of high impact nanoscale materials and devices and their application in NASA missions.   

Meador has been active in the ACS for many years, including as Member-at-Large of the Polymer Chemistry Division (POLY), POLY Chair (2020), as a symposium and workshop organizer, and as Thematic Programming Co-chair for the ACS Spring 2019 National Meeting.  

He is the recipient of several NASA awards including the NASA Medal for Equal Employment Opportunity, NASA Medal for Exceptional Service, and the inaugural Space Technology Technical Achievement Award. Meador is a Fellow of the American Chemical Society.

Throughout your career you will encounter senior leaders and other decision makers with a broad range of backgrounds, some technical and some not, interests, and agendas. Learning how to effectively communicate with them will serve you well. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Think about your audience. Who are you talking to, what’s their background, and what is the most effective way to get your message across? You want to capture their attention (in a good way) early in the meeting and not lose them.
  • Be clear about your message. Think about your objective and focus your presentation on meeting it. If you are giving a project overview talk about both accomplishments and impact. If you are going to ask for something (funding, help with research or commercialization, …) be clear about what that is and why you need it.  
  • Don't get lost in the weeds. You don’t need to impress your leaders with your deep knowledge on a specific topic. Keep it simple and stick to the basics. It’s likely that they will be more impressed by a concise presentation and will ask for more details if they need more information.
  • Don’t oversell. While they might not be a technical expert in everything, they are experienced enough to know when they are being sold a bill of goods.  

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the view of their employer or the American Chemical Society.

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