Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

Do you ever feel lost in a technical or fast conversation in English?

Sometimes when you’re at a party or event and you meet somebody new, you may need to talk about what they do for a living.

What if it’s a technical concept that they start to explain?

What benchmarks can you look for to get your bearings in the conversation?

You may find yourself in these conversations often, and today we are going to talk through how you can keep up and take key points out of them.

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Being A Part of Fast and Technical Conversations

Do you ever have to ask somebody to explain something more deeply in a conversation?

This may be the case often when it comes to technical things.

You want to ask for clarification without looking silly, and this is common.

You may lose track or tune out if they go too technical too fast, and that can happen to all of us.

In fast conversations especially with a group, somebody may have to clarify something or explain a certain concept.

You may have multiple speakers, as it’s not always about two people talking.

We want you to get confident with your listening skills and being a part of a group conversation as well.

This is all tied together, and you can learn more through our Conversations and Coffee course.

You want to sign up for this course so that you can improve your fast listening and group conversation skills.

Coffee and Conversations

This can happen often with technical concepts where you may feel lost and unsure of how to proceed.

What are some of the things you can do to follow along?

This is all about listening skills, and really reading the person that you are talking to.

You start by looking for an opening as this is your first cue here.

How is this person signaling that they are going into a really important concept?

What are some of the words that they use to explain?

If you know what to look out for then you can get into it.

Find something that will orient you, and also try to find the words and that opening.

What are the strategies that they use to explain?

Then it’s about focusing on when to know when it’s about to be over.

Look for cues as to when it will be over, because this matters just as much.

Try to seek out opportunities for them to summarize or let you know that it’s all over and they are opening it up to questions.

It may be getting easier to listen to our show for example, but you may want to take your game up a bit.

You may be at a party or a work event, and there is a conversation between more than two people.

You want to know how to master it, particularly at something like a networking event where the stakes feel very high.

Diving Into An Example

In this example, Lindsay is explaining composting in this clip and Michelle is trying to clarify and truly understand.

Lindsay: “You should…just to be sure our listeners know. Composting can actually make you healthier in the process. What is the difference between composting and recycling?”

Michelle: “I would like you to explain it. I don’t understand how it makes you healthier.”

Lindsay: “Composting is taking food waste such as corn cobs or peach pits, and then repurposing it and using this waste. You are using more natural foods that come from the earth and are healthier such as produce. Recycling is using materials primarily from prepacked meals as opposed to produce. So when you are composting you tend to eat healthier as it’s based on produce and healthier and more natural foods.

Michelle: “If I have to compost more, then I will be healthy. Is that how you did it?”

As you read through that example, consider the following two questions and how you would answer them.

The questions and the explanations should help a lot here.

  1. How does Lindsay explain composting?

She used “so”, but before that she gave examples of what it is and what it isn’t. That’s the important part of what she did. She didn’t get into too many technicalities which made it more relatable. This broke down recycling vs. composting in a really easy to understandable way. The benchmarks are what it is and waht it isn’t

2. How does Michelle show that she understands?

She elaborated and put it into words that she knew. She then had a follow up question that helps to summarize things in a really great way. She showed that she understood by explaining the link in her own words that helped to tie it all together and ensure that she got it moving forward.

You can slow down the conversation by asking questions, which is sometimes exactly what you need.

So you can get the answers to your questions, but also slow things down.

Lindsay was saying that composting makes you healthier, and she was explaining what composting is and how it contributes to better health.

If you focus on one or two key tasks, then it gives you something smaller to grab onto.

I’m happy to explain–and she went into what the link was as well as explaining what it was too.

Making The Most Out of These Conversations

These are the conversations that are going to come up often, and they can be difficult at first.

There is however a great way to make the most out of them and work on your comprehension at the same time.

Here are the various things that you can do to make these conversations work for you and to get the most out of them.

  • Look for an opening: Do you know? I’m happy to explain, or keywords like that. You are preparing and opening it up that she’s about to get into the full details. Listeners will want to pay attention because the detail is about to happen. The listener can then reframe the conversation in their own words to show a full understanding which can help tremendously. Don’t try to listen to a clip and understand everything–focus on a few key things.
  • Use words to help with the explanation: This falls on the speaker first and foremost, but then can be helpful for you as the listener too. To try to explain you may use words such as “so…”, “I mean….” , “right?” These can be fillers words and can also slow things down, both of which matter greatly. It’s a way of checking in to make sure that you have the listeners attention.
  • Be mindful of showing that you are moving on and progressing to your next point: You may also use “and then” or “but basically.” This signals to you that the speaker is going to boil it down to the most essential point. You may also use “so” again to wrap things up, as well as “you know.” There are a lot of filler words in here, but they actually do serve a purpose. “But” to contrast and “such as” gives you specific examples to compare and contrast. You may also use “as opposed to” in this same way as well. Then there can be a short explanation and some examples, as well as a contrast. This helped to illustrate
  • Think through how to summarize: “That’s what I see as the differences” and you can use a word such as “exactly” to demonstrate that there is a good understanding. You want to circle back and you want to listen for an explanation. There may be a more technical explanation and you want to wait for that.

If you ask somebody about their career, then you may have to be ready for some scientific explanation and be prepared for that.

This is all about how people explain things–what words and phrases do ethey use?

Do they give contrasting examples?

Then it’s about how you can explain things in your own conversations–and we’ll do a follow up on that!

This is a next level of fluency, and therefore it matters greatly for you to take your speaking and comprehension forward.


Don’t get intimidated by explanations, just be prepared for how you can be a part of these conversations.

Listen for keywords such as those provided above as your cues for the explanation or where the conversation is going.

It’s okay to summarize and ask questions, as these will all help you with better comprehension.

This is all part of fast conversations, particularly as they get more technical in nature.

These are the types of conversations that are bound to come up often, so you want to be prepared for them.

With some practice and asking for clarification, you will get better at these conversations and know what to take out of them.

If you have any questions, please leave them below in the comments section.

We’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

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