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Why Great Communication is about Connection Not Perfection with Saneia Norton

Updated: Aug 25, 2021

In Episode 8 of Think Big, I speak to Saneia Norton, landscape architect and host of Dig Beneath Design - a podcast where her along with her guests, share stories and insights about design communication. Saneia Norton believes that clear communication gives designers:


As a landscape architect, she has often seen great projects fall over before they reach completion because ideas weren't explained clearly or the audience didn't understand the idea.

She helps professionals to prepare for critical project meetings, presentations and reports that really have to hit the mark. Through her work, she hopes to empower designers with language skills to match their fluency in graphics. I thought this interview would be the perfect follow up to my chat with Steven Rubio.

In today's interview, I wanted to know a little more about her work and the importance of tieing visual representation to verbal communication. I wanted to dive deeper into understanding this more and how my clients who are non-native English speakers could think about how they might use some of the ideas to their advantage. Saneia's details

Dig Beneath Design Podcast -

We discussed so many things:

✨Her work as a landscape architect ✨Why she started her Podcast - Dig Beneath Design and what she has learnt from the interviews ✨Key skills she teaches to professionals through her workshops ✨Jargon and making communication simpler and more accessible. ✨Resources to help with improving communication skills; and so much more!

Books & Resources

📚 30 Second Architecture, Denison Edward

📚 The Elements of Style, Strunk and White

📚 The Little Black Book of Business Writing, Mark Treddinick and Geoff White

📚 On Writing Well, William Zinsser 📚 Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, Susan Cain

✨ Connect with me on LinkedIn Tara Cull

✨ Extended Show Notes and Full Transcript:

Recommended episodes:

Episode 3: How to use storytelling to connect to your clients - Fiona Dunin, FMD Architects

Episode 7: How to Communicate Your Ideas Better Visually and Verbally with Steven Rubio - Show it Better


Table of Contents Books and Resources


public sector - projects that are in part controlled by the state/government public realm - the publicly-owned places that belong to and are accessible by everyone.

strategic projects - master plans or projects that consider long term development of public space

design and documentation projects - projects that go through concept design phase + construction documentation so they can be built

multidisciplinary teams - teams made up of several consultants - engineers, architects, landscape architects

power dynamics (at play) - actions that assert power are affecting the relationship between two or more people.

hone - refine or perfect something

paramount - essential

well-versed - skilled or knowledgeable

gain traction - to have or build success gradually


distilling your message - refining the message so it's clear and concise

hit the mark - to be successful or accurate in a guess.

make or break a design - the project could either be successful or unsuccessful

To cut someone down - to disagree with them or criticise their work without consideration

The drop of a hat - straight away or without any planning

take (something) as a given - to be sure about something

to be time-poor - to have no free time

keep you posted - update someone

something at play - many things happening at once


Quick Find Snippets - Take me straight to these sections

Saneia's experience 04:52

Starting Dig Beneath Design Podcast 10:29

Takeaway's from Dig Beneath Design 13:05

Explaining visuals 19:34

The key ingredients to her workshops 21:38

Preparing for presentations 27:07

What is jargon and alternatives 35:36

Resources to help you with being a clear and confident communicator 43:13



Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 00:00

You're listening to Think Big Episode eight

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 00:09

Hello Big Thinkers and welcome to episode eight of Think Big English for architects. I'm your host Tara Cull, landscape architect and English teacher. And I help people in the built design profession who speak English as a second language to build outstanding communication skills and feel more confident to speak up. You can learn more about my coaching programmes and upcoming courses at I'm very excited to welcome this week's guest Saneia Norton landscape architect and host of Dig Beneath Design. Saneia, Norton believes that clear communication gives designers real power. As a landscape architect, she has often seen great projects fall over before they reach completion because ideas weren't explained clearly or the audience didn't necessarily understand the idea. I came across the nose work through the Australian Institute of landscape architects and Parlour's Instagram page. And I was instantly drawn to her quiet and insightful communication style. I immediately resonated thinking that not everyone needs to be loud and extroverted to be a successful communicator. So I wanted to get to know more about her and her work. And I knew that what she had to share would be so valuable for my clients and listeners, something that we spoke about during the interview was wanting to create content that was relevant and actionable. And this is exactly how I feel about what I'm trying to do with ArchiEnglish. Saneia is an experienced design professional so she knows the challenges that many designers face, but she's also in tune with the ways that we communicate. She loves language and really understands how language works, as well as the importance of forging your own unique style as a communicator. And this is really what I wanted to tap into. In our conversation. She helps professionals to prepare for critical project meetings, presentations and reports that really have to hit the mark. And through our work, she hopes to empower designers with language skills to match their fluency in graphics. I thought that this interview would be the perfect follow up to my chat with Steven Rubio. In the interview, I wanted to dive deeper into understanding design communication, and how my clients who are non-native English speakers could think about how they might use some of these ideas that she shares to their advantage. I absolutely loved this conversation and the valuable insights that she shared, and I was looking forward to chatting to her about jargon and why I think we use it too much. So you'll find all the notes the resources that she recommended, and of course, the transcript in the link for the show notes at archy slash podcast. Now this episode is number two in my series about presentations and in episode nine the next one, I'm going to share some of my biggest takeaways from Stephens episode today's episode as well as what I've noticed in my work with my clients, and also my university students, and professional so let's find out more about Saneia Norton.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 03:33

Today, I'm talking to the lovely Saneia Norton, who is the host of Dig Beneath Design a podcast all about communicating your ideas in design. Saneia speaks to designers from all around Australia to understand more about their best and worst experiences when it comes to design. She's also a registered landscape architect in Australia with over 20 years of experience working on several public domain projects in New South Wales. We met because I started listening to a podcast with some of my clients. And I loved her approach, in particular, how she teaches and helps people within the industry to improve their communication skills and be more aware of their communication skills. So I'm very happy to have her here today to ask her lots of great questions about her experience, what she's learned from her conversations, communication skills, and my favourite topic and I think her favourite topic to jargon. So welcome Saneia. Thank you for accepting my invitation. I'm very excited to be having this conversation with you. So welcome.

Saneia Norton 04:44

Thanks, Tara. Great to be here.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 04:46

So before we begin, could you share with the listeners a little bit about who you are and what you do?

Saneia Norton 04:52

So I'm a landscape architect by training. And as you said, I've been in the industry quite a long time over 20 years for For most of that time in the public sector, working on strategic projects working on design and documentation projects in multidisciplinary teams, so with architects and engineers and heritage specialists on schools and parks and streets across the state of New South Wales, and I really enjoyed it, but about midway through my career, I started to feel like maybe I wanted to do something different for the rest of my career. So you know, midway through that 20 years in so and I started thinking, what could I offer to the industry? What were my strengths? What are my strengths, and what I love about my job in design, I love the design work, I love the project work. But I also really particularly loved presenting, I loved talking to people about design ideas, and seeing what they thought about it, and that my other love is language. So I'm big reader, I love writing. And so the language we use to describe our work was always a focus for me. So I turned that into my business, which is training designers. So what coaching designers to talk about their work more clearly, particularly to people without the same training.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 06:07

I love what you're talking about being a lover of language, because me too, I'm a lover of language, obviously. And I think, as we've spoken about before, communication skills are so important within the design industry, it can sometimes make or break a design. And I think one of the things I was thinking about too, as you were speaking is you've worked in multidisciplinary offices. What is that taught you about communication?

Saneia Norton 06:35

A lot. So a lot of my experiences in meeting rooms would be observing the dynamics between the different disciplines. For example, say an architect or leading a project, talking to an engineer, hydraulic engineer doing the drainage for their building. And that architects you know, here's an example that architect said to that engineer, Bill, you know, I just don't want to see any of your ugly downpipes anywhere near the front of my building. And you can just see the engineer just really upset, really shocked, like, this is my job. And it makes me proud to do this job well, to make sure your building drains efficiently. And to cut somebody down like that. I don't know. I just saw lots and lots of examples across disciplines where the different technical expertise wasn't valued. Or there was power dynamics at play, where someone was asserting their authority on the project, I want you to design my building. My way, it's so important, isn't it to understand somebody else's perspective, and what they have to offer. Everybody does all these years of professional, you know, training, years of training at university, years of work. They have a lot to offer. And I think it's more about collaboration. It's about being open to other people, other people's expertise, and how they can make a design stronger or better.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 08:04

So rather than seeing the downpipe as a negative thing, see it? How can we see this as an opportunity, maybe

Saneia Norton 08:07

See it as an opportunity and maybe even know enough about people. To know that maybe you'd approach that engineer with a bit of flattery and say something like, I know you're amazing at your job. Let's work together to make sure the drainage on this building is the best it can be. Do you have some ideas? I've got some ideas. Let's work something out together.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 08:32

So I'm really interested to know some of the examples of the projects you've worked on what what sort of public domain projects have you worked on before.

Saneia Norton 08:40

I worked on a park at Circular Quay in Sydney that was a big documentation project. Just before I left the government architect's office that was really complex. You know, a lot of our projects, a lot of design work in any arena, but especially public has a whole range of authorities and utilities that you need to manage and design around and design with. So this park had high voltage cables and a sewer pumping station and heritage, docks and wharves underneath it and 1000s of people that walked by it every day. So safety aspects. Yeah, that was in when we're all we were doing was making the park I guess giving it an update, making it clearer and, and safer. I've worked on heaps and heaps of schools and other kind of public institutions like hospitals and court houses and some of those are heritage, heritage buildings and things. And I didn't mention I'm actually still working as a landscape architect now. So I have a part time job two days a week with material studio, which is another public, public project public sector firm. Yeah, we've worked on a dog park out in West And Sydney, which was amazing. Like, it was a really, really big park. But we designed it almost like we were designing for people thinking how the dogs would be engaged and where they in their owners would walk. And yeah, so I love it

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 10:16

Sounds like you have a lot of varied work. And on top of that you also have your podcast dig beneath design, which is a great play on words, by the way. So I'd love to know, how did you come up with the name?

Saneia Norton 10:29

There was a list of hundreds, maybe, I don't know, maybe 50. I had a list of heaps and heaps of names. What I wanted to get across in the name is that idea of going beneath or going behind the glossy project images, but a lot of us present as part of our work. Here's our amazing latest project. I was really interested in what what went into that final product? And what were the conversations behind the scenes? And how did that designer convince the client or community to build it like that?

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 11:04

The name definitely brings that across, I think it really shows that it's more than just the design. It's there's so much more to it. So I've been watching Simon Sinek a lot recently. And he he says in his famous TED talk that you should start with why. So I'm curious to know why what what made you start the podcast,

Saneia Norton 11:23

I started it because I wanted to generate content to be recognised as a expert in this new field I was branching into so going from design to communication, melding the two then creating this new business idea. But what I was keen to do is create a body of information. I'm not an academic, I've done my degree, I haven't done any extra degrees. And I wanted to really draw on knowledge that was industry based practice base to find out what people are doing now what's working, I suspected there was a lot there, I suspected that there was lots of tips and tricks that people have been doing for years, and maybe just not talking to anyone about as well as those experiences that we all know, you know, you learn more from the bad experiences or the mistakes or the humiliating experiences that you have you learn so much from them. And I was hoping to find guests that would be prepared to share those with me,

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 12:24

I really wish that it was something that was available when I first started working as a landscape architect, because a lot of the things that you really reveal in the episodes, a lot of your guests talk about some of those things that I had questions about, you know, why do we use these words to explain certain things? Or, you know, why do we do things like this. And so I really feel like you, like the name says you dig beneath the design to understand more about the process. And so I guess that really leads me into my next question, which is looking at what are some of the takeaways that you had from the podcast because I've listened to all the episodes and this, I just would love to hear from you. What you found was some of the takeaways.

Saneia Norton 13:05

I deliberately chose a bit of a cross section of gifts. I had people who were more academically inclined people that were directors of firms, a couple of people who were more media based, you know, television and radio stars, I the takeaways I have from them fairly different. So for example, Gregor bash, a landscape architect in Western Australia. I think my takeaways are about style. There's no one right style, there's no one right way to present work. So Greg, rubbish, really casual guy, and he would talk really in that colloquial way, he wouldn't use big words, he'd want to befriend you really quickly, and tell you what he was really passionate about. As a contrast, another lady, also from Western Australia, Jenny officer and architect and director of office awards. She is a mix of practitioner and academic. And she was really strong in her opinion that we shouldn't need to make our language more basic, we should use these technical terms. We just need to explain them, bring people along on the journey and teach them these new terms so that they can then be excited that they've learned something

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 14:20

Yeah. Wow. That's a contrast, isn't it?

Saneia Norton 14:22

It's a contrast. So I love the difference in style. A lot of people look at directors of firms, these charismatic leaders that we have that we see presenting all the time, often at the drop of a hat. A lot of people look up at their boss or director and think they're just unnatural. I'll never be able to do it like that. I'm just not like that. It's not my personality. And they sit back and take that as a given. Some people can do it and some people can't digging a bit deeper behind those leaders and how they present. I found out that a lot of them have worked for years to develop that ability and hone that ability. They still put a lot of effort into making those great presentations and convincing clients to give them work and and build the design. So even these highly experienced, talented people still get really nervous.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 15:14

For me, that's such an important aspect to share, I think, to know that actually even really, people who seem well put together or they know what they're saying, it still takes them work, that's really important to know. So I really appreciate you sharing that. Any other takeaways?

Saneia Norton 15:33

Let's see. Yes. So from the people I spoke to who were from a media background. So Indira, Naidoo, she has done lots of news reading, she's done 1000s of public talks, written books on radio, as well as Tim Ross. So the comedian done a lot of stand up is now doing a lot of television and radio. So both of them had a real skill and focus on finding the thing that was going to hook your audience, you need to find that hook. And you need to get to that hook as quickly as possible in your presentation. And that's something I've really taken into my coaching and the professional work that if you don't do that people tune out. People are so time poor,

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 16:17

That's so true, we need to make sure that we get to the point really quickly, because you're right, we are very time for these days. I also love how you've had that mix of people from people within the industry and outside the industry. Because I imagine when you went into the project of starting a podcast, you kind of came out on the other side, so much wiser, and maybe seeing things from a different perspective.

Saneia Norton 16:42

Yes. And it really, it's so enjoyable. For me that form of research. I love it. I'm just I think I'm really nosy. I'm really curious about people. And I love asking questions and working out why people behave the way they do. You know, it's what I would have been doing back in meetings at my government job sitting and observing. So it's, I love having the opportunity to do that for the podcast.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 17:08

And I think one of the things I think too, like I work, you know, I myself am introverted. We've talked about, you know, being introverted, and and that's a gift actually to be able to observe, and to really analyse and bring those things together, and and see how you can use that to share with people. So as you were saying you wanted to create content. And this content is helpful for lots of people, because you observe things in such an interesting way.

Saneia Norton 17:39

Yes, thank you, thank you so much for saying that. It was, it's really important to me, it's really important to me that the work that I do now is a useful, that's probably my highest priority that it's, it's not just theory, it's actually stuff that designers need to do their jobs more effectively. And to get the value of what we do in our professions out there, in a more broader sense out there in the world. Because a lot of the time, they don't feel like people actually know what a landscape architect does, or why they might need an architect for their home, or how an urban designer can really influence the health of a city or a society. And I think we spend a lot of time thinking about how to communicate to each other. So a lot of a lot of the people I work with are focused on how am I going to communicate this to my peers, or within the industry? What will they think of this piece of communication? It's interesting, I think we spent a lot of time focused on that, as well as the visuals. We haven't really talked about this. But the reason I'm focusing on language and probably the same for you, the reason we focus on language is that in our world, in the design world, visuals are paramount. They are the priority. We work in a really visual world, a lot of us are very visual thinkers and communicators. So I feel that our focus on language, once that's brought up to the same level as our expertise in visual communication will be unstoppable.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 19:09

Yeah, absolutely. I think you're right. I think the thing too, like I like what you were talking about, then talking about the visuals is and maybe you have more to say about this, but I think sometimes we make the assumption that people understand our visual. And we we think, okay, I'll just put it there and they'll understand and then we don't know how to communicate the visual is. Do you find that a lot with the people you work with?

Saneia Norton 19:34

All the time, all the time. Great point. I feel like the the words that we put to our visuals, helps people understand what we mean, helps people know what to focus on, on that image. A lot of the time our images are really complex. So time spent orienting somebody before you go into the detail of what's in that plan or that section is really valuable. And I guess what that comes back to is understanding who is your audience? Who are you talking to? How much do they know what background do they have? And then you can pitch your level of communication to that audience.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 20:12

I remember one session I had with a group of professionals and we were talking about how do you make your communication simple. And one of my clients said to me, You just pretend like you're explaining your design to your grandma, who has no idea what you do, doesn't know anything. And and you're trying to explain it to her or a 10 year old child.

Saneia Norton 20:33

Yeah, I love that. And finally, funnily enough, as a side note, to my business, I've started making more of an effort to explain what I'm doing, actually, to my 96 year old grandmother. And she's, she's now so well versed in design and communication, and she's really into it. Oh, wow. Have Known I wouldn't even have known that she'd be interested if I hadn't starting to started to make the effort to explain it. That's great. I think a lot of a lot of the time we feel like, it's just it's a bit hard. It's a bit complex. But if we make the effort, then I think the rewards are there.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 21:13

And now she's the head of your she's the head of your marketing department now, isn't she? She's telling everyone about what you do? Yes, actually. So you work with landscape architects and design professionals, with coaching, and also workshops as well. I've attended one of your amazing workshops, that was very helpful. Can you tell us a little bit more about what are some of the key things that you work on with them?

Saneia Norton 21:38

My favourite suite of workshops, is what I've considered the foundation course. So it's a three part thing, where first I get people to focus on distilling their message. And that looks at content and language. So we'll get to jargon later. But that encourages people to be concise and clear with their content.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 22:02

I just want to ask a quick question. Before we move on. What does it mean by distilling the message,

Saneia Norton 22:07

I think about it, as you know how you would distil a liquid from something, you know, like a lot of liquid down to like a little droplet in a bottle. But it's got the essence, it's got a really concentrated essence of that liquid. So that's what I picture as with all the content of our complex projects that might be really broad ranging and might be going, might go on for years. We've got it all going around in our head. But if we spend the time to really think about what's at the heart of this, what do I need to communicate right now? And what could be that hook? What could be that thing that is going to get people interested enough to want to know more? So for me that's distilling the message really working out what you want to say? And then trying to say it in as short amount of words as possible.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 22:57

Yeah, great. Okay. So we have distilling the message

Saneia Norton 22:58

..Distilling the message. So then you so you're focusing on your own content first, then you turn your attention to your audience. So the second workshop is called Tell the Story. And by that I don't necessarily mean a whole storytelling narrative. I mean, think about who you're talking to, and how you going to structure your information, and how much time you have to do that. It's about working out what you're going to start with, what few key points are going to be in the middle and how you're going to end it. Again, it sounds really, really simple. But a lot of people probably don't even think about this that much. They'll just go, okay, I'll put my slides together, and I'll talk to them. I might go over time, I might not. So again, a lot of our preparation for these types of things are really visual based, we'll put the images together first. But this type of process, especially this one, about thinking about your audience is absolutely critical for being an effective communicator. It's about empathy. It's about thinking about who's across the table from me in this room, what do they care about? And how, if I'm clever, how can I align what I want to tell them with what they care about, so that I can get the action that I want. So that persuasion and showing somebody how what you're doing could really benefit what they're doing, thereby, ideally getting some traction and getting some interest. So once you have those first two, you've got your content distilled, and then you've got your audience sorted out, then it's about delivery. So the third workshop is all about work, working with people to explore what authentic communication means to them. So you might hear that a fair bit you know, authentic communication is really important. What does that mean? For me, it means if I stood up in front of a group of people and talked and sales, a family member or a really close friend within that audience, they'd look up and see me talking and think, Oh, yeah, that's denia. That's That's her being just how she normally is. She's not putting on an act. She's not sounding all weird and formal or different. She's not looking to stress or serious. She's normal personality. Yeah. Just talking like she normally talks.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 25:13

And that's, and that's kind of what you tell people to imagine that somebody in the audience that, you know, that's a great piece of advice, actually.

Saneia Norton 25:20

And that, that then means that if you are naturally a fairly quiet or serious person, then you don't have to put on a big show. If you are naturally a flamboyant, and exaggerated personnel personality that loves his storytelling and loves the spotlight, then go with it too. Yeah, again, you may always need to temper your natural personality, a temper, I mean, consider your natural way of presenting based on your audience. So there's always some small adjustments, but that basic style of presenting, I think, makes the world really interesting. We all do it in different ways. We all respond to different speakers differently. You know, I've sat in conferences and sat next to my colleagues and turned to them afterwards and said, I really enjoyed that presentation and turned back to me this guy thought that was terrible.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 26:18

It was rubbish. Yeah, it's true. Yeah, we all have different ways of seeing things and, and appreciating things, don't we? So I think that's the thing, that's the key, you just have to be yourself. But But knowing who you are, sometimes is difficult, because you've got all the noise around you. And so that's what I like about what you're saying. Imagine that somebody in the audience is somebody that knows you, because it's kind of like a guard, a yardstick, it's kind of okay. And that's something that a lot of the people that I work with, even myself sometimes struggle with, I think, okay, I've got to be more out there and more, you know, being more extroverted, but you can't put that on for a long period of time. Because you always go back to sort of what you're naturally good at

Saneia Norton 27:07

what is in a workshop, I was in a session with somebody, just yesterday, where they said to me, I know you should put emotive things in presentations, because that's how you connect with people. But, but really, I'm just more of a facts and figures type of person, I just like to lay it out really plainly back it up with the detail. And, and that's that. So and what I said to him was, that's great. Do that you don't have to, you don't have to add things in that you see other people do. Find out what really works for you. Find out what your style is, because we need all different styles. Another thing that I've taken out of the professional workshops is there's a couple more things, actually. One is an S I see a really common aspiration from people in the industry to be like, somebody who can talk at the drop of a hat off the top of their head really fluently and really intelligently.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 28:04

Yeah, everyone wants to be that.

Saneia Norton 28:07

Yeah. Especially about topics they may not even have that much information about. They just want to be able to go. Thank you for that question. A third another really intelligent?

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 28:17


Saneia Norton 28:19

I don't know about you, but I can't do that. I can't sound really knowledgeable. No, I need to practice. Yeah, I need to prep I need to research and be really confident in my material, that that desire to be able to do that without a whole lot of prep is really strong, really prevalent in the people that I see.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 28:39

Yeah, it's interesting that you, you say that too, because that is exactly what people say to me too. For example, they might say, I have a meeting tomorrow, or that I had a meeting last week with my boss. And I, I wrote everything down, and I learned it off by heart. And then, and then I got to the meeting, and I didn't know how to do it. Because Because what they're trying to do actually is prepare everything, to be able to say it off the top of their head. But that's not necessarily how we work or that's not necessarily how it happens. So it's about sort of preparing yourself to be unprepared, but also preparing yourself for that meeting so that you can sort of have some natural conversation as well as draw upon what you're talking about. So,

Saneia Norton 29:30

yes, again, you're right. People want to be able to do a really great presentation really confidently for maybe a fairly long time. Without notes. A lot of people say to me, I just I know I shouldn't have these notes. I'm doing my best to learn it off by heart or doing my best to just talk naturally. I've in the course of my career, been to lots and lots of conferences, lots and lots of presentations, and I've seen hundreds of different styles. I've seen people who Do talk off the cuff and they sound amazing. And they're really just these fluent, or writers, you know. And I have also heard incredibly moving speeches that were read from a script. So for me, that spectrum of how people present is really broad. And all of us can fit in somewhere on that spectrum, how we feel most comfortable from totally scripted speech, to fluent and off the cuff, the most important thing is to connect is to connect first with what you're saying, connect with your material, if you're reading a speech makes sure that speech is beautifully crafted. And make sure you read it with emotion. And you look up from time to time and acknowledge you're reading it to a group of people who were there. So it's about connecting first with the material. Second with your audience, I really try and help people build confidence in their own style. That's the key thing I do with my professionals in my groups. A lot of people say to me, I think they're trained to do that at university. So as soon as I graduate and get out there in the workforce, they feel like to get respect, maybe even particularly young people to get respect, they need to talk in ways that are much more formal, or technical or jargony than they would normally they can't just talk like a normal human about what they're doing. Because they feel like in a professional sense. It's expected to talk in this in these weird terms in this jargon. So that's, that's my main thing. I try to direct people to other experts. You know, it might be Neil deGrasse Tyson, or it might be Kevin MacLeod on grand designs, they are so good at breaking down really complex things, complex concepts, even scientific concept for the general public. You know, in Australia on a radio show, we've got a guy called Dr. Karl, and you don't think any less of him as an expert, because of the fact that he can explain things really clearly. And really simply and put things in terms that you will understand. As designers, I think we we can do that. There's no reason why we can't do that.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 32:16

I think that's important to what you were talking about earlier about having the people coming from media, and then in the industry. Because that's, I think that's really how you do that, like Dr. Carl knows his message has to be able to be understood by lots of people. So therefore, he knows how to break it down. I'm so happy you mentioned Dr. Karl, because when I did my final year at university, I was myself and my now best friend, we worked on this project together. And we use Dr. Karl as the person that was communicating our ideas. And we created this website around Dr. Karl and so somebody I really admire. There you go. That's great. Yeah, and something that I was thinking about too, as you were talking before, is the whole idea about, you know, communicating in a style that you want. So, Dr. Karl, good example of somebody that if you like listening to Dr. Carl, and you can communicate like that, then do that. I also like Jane Goodall, for example. So I watch a lot of her videos, and I can you can see that there's a lot of patterns through what she says. She says a lot of the same things. So clearly she's rehearsed. She knows the message she wants to tell. And she doesn't do it quickly. She does it nicely and softly and without being over the top. So yeah, I think it's really important to know who who you like listening to, or who you like watching and admire. Because it's it's probably something that you would like to be like as well, a way that you would like to speak as well.

Saneia Norton 33:59

That's great and it transfers into your writing as well. Think about the the writers that you enjoy reading the books that you gravitate towards and respond to. You might have a favourite journalist whose articles you always look forward to coming out for me in Sydney. I really love Elizabeth fairleads articles. She's a architecture critic for the Sydney Morning Herald. You know you can exactly like you say you can pick people who you respond to and then analyse, try and find out how did they do that? What are they doing that I like? I think one thing that is important is is not to be sound like somebody else like what you're saying, don't be somebody that you don't want to be. We need diversity, we need more diversity, especially in our industry in most industries. But especially as we need more voices. We need more young people, more women, more gender diverse people. We just need more voices being heard. So It's up to us to start getting our skill set together to be able to do that and to be confident enough. Yeah, absolutely have that voice and speak up, become when you want to. That is

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 35:12

certainly something we are both very passionate about. So thank you for mentioning that, including diverse voices. So before we move on, is there anything you want to say? Or can we talk about jargon? Let's get into jargon. All right. Yeah, we do love talking about jargon. I'm interested to hear some of the examples that you come across that and what are some of the alternatives? or What can you say instead?

Saneia Norton 35:36

Okay, so I've got some ready here. Oh, great. Firstly, though, firstly, the way I look at it is that it's not just jargon, that's the problem. So if I use a cover alternative language, I would say that the language that we use as designers can be problematic when we use a whole lot of jargon. So technical terms, that other others without the same training, don't understand industry terms, or whether we speak in abstract terms. So that's a generic type of speaking, where you might use a whole lot of words like bureaucracy, or engagement or participation, even, you know, big kind of nouns, big concept. And then the third thing is complexity. When there's just too much when there's your sentences too long, you've just got too much in there and your, your language could use a really good edit, to make it nice and lean and straightforward. So there's jargon, there's abstract terms and there's complexity. Okay, ready for this one? Sure. As a design description, okay. Okay. I feel like I need to put on a voice.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 36:43

Yeah, exactly. Okay.

Saneia Norton 36:46

juxtaposing the permanence and weight of stone with the ephemeral qualities of moving and reflective water. These thresholds symbolically link past, present and future to reinforce the incredible location of the site as a critical context for the museum itself.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 37:02

Well, you lost me sentence, you lost me at juxtaposition.

Saneia Norton 37:10

Sometimes it's individual words, sometimes it's the way we put words together. And even using a word like juxtaposing, if you don't normally say that in conversation with somebody, then it sounds very strange. Come out with your friends or family in the audience would be just going you What? Yeah, yeah, that's,

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 37:32

that's a good point. Like, imagine reading that out to your 96 year old grandma, and she's thinking, What is she on about?

Saneia Norton 37:38

What is she talking about? Imagine starting a sentence with juxtaposing. Okay, here's another one. Perhaps one of the most important aspects of the project, the ground land scape, I just did brackets with my fingers, the ground landscape undulates to create variable physical connections between different levels, enhancing the continuity of the outdoor spaces with the facades of the buildings to become an implicit engine for navigation through the site.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 38:09

Oh, an implicit engine. I like that. I don't know what that means. But

Saneia Norton 38:15

so again, I have more two I have one from like, say a newspaper. fundamental to the urban character of the design is the fine grain orthogonal structure of the public domain and streetscape. The small footprint tower forms Nestle into a network of three sitelinks and intimate public spaces addressed and activated by a variety of low scale buildings. A city in microcosm.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 38:38

Wow, that's great. I love I love the microcosm and activated that's one I hear often as well, the building activates the public space.

Saneia Norton 38:48

But what does that really mean? Sometimes the words themselves aren't unusual. It's the way we use them in our profession. So fine grain, urban grain, urban fabric legibility, the legibility of the space or the legibility of a building facade. You asked about, what are some alternatives?

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 39:10

Yeah, I'd love to note,

Saneia Norton 39:11

I've got a couple of great sentences. This is one of my favourites. architecture has its own language, one that can be read in the facades of Greek temples, Georgian terraces, and Guggenheim museums

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 39:23

are That's beautiful.

Saneia Norton 39:25

It's so simple, so simple. And it introduces a concept that tells you about how we work how we help designers work, how we think architecture has its own language, and then it tells you how tells you exactly what you mean. It means that people without training we read facades of buildings. And that gives you three examples of buildings that most people would be able to picture, a Greek temple, Georgian terrace, the Guggenheim Museum, a Guggenheim Museum, really rhythmical as well. uses that rule of threes at the end is that thesis three exam calls it uses alliteration uses three G's even though they sound slightly different Greek temples, Georgian terraces, Guggenheim museums, that's what I'm looking for in the language that we use, if we put as much effort into crafting our language, like, all good writers do effort into the combination of words that we use the sounds that they make when we read it aloud. And for that experience, when you do read your own writing, it's so funny, when you do read something you've written, you can hear immediately, if it's long winded, if it's too wordy, or if it's just beating really is it's flowing really well for get people to look for a good flow, to make sure your sentence has a clear point. And to use some kind of imagery that helps somebody picture what you're trying to say, use an example use an analogy, use use something that helps people picture what you're trying to get across.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 40:56

It's not It's not easy. It's not I mean, we're visual people too. So we need your visual in our language. And I think, like, I really like what you were saying about paying attention to language, because actually, language is very subconscious. So we make decisions we make. We have ideas about language we're not always aware of. And I think it's something that I've become more aware of, after learning a language and being more aware of what is the person trying to say to me, because when you first start learning a language, it's very literal. And then once you start becoming more advanced, you sort of Looking underneath the language, and what do these words really mean? So I think that's so important that you're trying to make people aware of the language that they're using and what it can actually do, it could potentially sell the concept to somebody that they need to sell it to.

Saneia Norton 41:56

Yes, good language moves people. So it's, it's something that..those of us who are interested, like, the other thing, I think, is that we're all busy, right? So designers, architects, landscape architects, we've already got so much to do. That's what I'm really trying to do with, with how I'm helping us help you, you and I are helping the profession is here are just some really easy ways to make your words more effective. And to get better connection with your clients and communities to really compliment the great job you're already doing the great ideas you're already working on. Here's ways you can you can get them across more clearly and be more effective. We don't want to be boring, you know, if you want to have language that's really evocative, meaningful, and yet concise.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 42:47

Yeah, that's hard, isn't it? It's hard. Yeah. That's the craft. Exactly. Well, I love that example. So thank you for sharing that example. Before we go, one last thing I would love to know from you, because I know you have many of these some resources that you share with people, if for example, somebody wants to improve their writing or their communication skills, what are some of the things that you share with them

Saneia Norton 43:13

For writing, there are some really great books that have inspired me and that I draw on from from my workshops. One of them is noctor, denix, little black book of business writing. Another one is Strunk and white, the Elements of Style. It's just a very small book I'm holding it up to show you now is a tiny, little nice, small, simple book. Another one is on writing well, by William zinsser. These books are really well respected texts in the writing world. So in the world of professional writers, they're their classics. And the main thing that each of these books say a common theme running through them is it's difficult to work out exactly what you want to say. And then say it with an economy of words, say it is, you know, in as short a sentence as possible. It's difficult and the craft is a skill that has to be learned, practised and honed. They're they're great resources for writing. There's also another great book called 32nd architecture. I'm just looking forward on my bookshelf, and I can't quite see it at the moment. And it goes through a number of concepts of architecture in a 32nd tiny sentence in a short paragraph. And then in say, like three paragraphs, so it does this great thing of its sort of reverse condensing. It starts with a very short, expands it a little bit and then expands it in another step. But it shows you how complex and technical aspects of our work can be communicated really clearly. In terms of of getting your thoughts clear. A great resource that I came across is a YouTube channel called the archy marathon Kevin Huey and Andrew Menard. They're doing amazing work. They don't just talk about coming indication they talk about you know, critical aspects of projects, ways to function in the industry interviews, etc. But my favourite one is there what why how episode where they talk you through a process for getting your thoughts clear on something you've designed and how you can then communicate that to somebody you to go through these three steps of what you've designed, describing it really simply why you've designed it that way and not another way why you've made the decisions you have. And then how it works. How do people experience it? How does it impact its environment? Really clever, really, really simple?

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 45:34

Absolutely. I love I love their channel, and it's something that I share with all of my university students, because it's so simple, and I think every professional needs to watch this video. Yes,

Saneia Norton 45:47

Agree. In terms of presenting and public speaking, I tend to look for really great presentations online. And I tend to use say some of the best known architects and people at the top of the top of the industry. So David Ajay, Dame Zaha Hadid, Kate off from Skype in New York. I just find it you know, BRK Ingles, of course, but I find that whatever I choose, there's always something to learn from it. Whatever presentation you go and see whatever video you watch, there will always be a takeaway for you. You'll compare yourself against this speaker, what I do like that, what am I responding to here? What am I not responding to? It helps you define your own style. One of my mantras is connection over perfection. Don't aim for the perfect, slick, polished, talk or presentation doesn't matter if a few things go wrong. As long as you you get your point across you connect with your material connect with your audience. That's all you can do.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 46:53

That is the quote of the day connection over perfection. I love it. Yes. Okay, so we've got looking at TED talks or not TED Talks, but looking at videos and things online or different. Anything else going to as many talks as you can,

Saneia Norton 47:09

I mean, I know a lot of people might be restricted from doing that with COVID. And things, but certainly in Sydney, it's been was very quiet during last year, and talks are now starting to pop back up. But I love that I love being out in the industry, seeing everybody and then listening to what work people are doing and how they're choosing to communicate it. Being curious. You know, I'm probably you know, somebody that people don't want to see in an audience because I'd take notes on

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 47:39

like, Oh, nice, nice here. We've got to be good.

Saneia Norton 47:43

I know, I know, my husband was joking that I should hold up a little sign saying call me.

Saneia Norton 47:49

Somebody needed.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 47:50

That's a great idea. That's very good. I think not quite at that stage.

Saneia Norton 47:57

Yeah, but just get out there, watch and listen, go to a bunch of things or watch talks online. When you see something you respond to and you like, make a note, make a list for yourself.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 48:07

These are all such great examples, going to conferences, watching videos and watching things that have people that inspire you and keep you curious. That's right. So I'm interested to know, do you have any more resources to share before we wrap up the conversation today,

Saneia Norton 48:22

I do have one more you might have mentioned it before, because I know we've talked about this book was when you were talking about personality styles, and being an introvert being quieter, which I am too. It's the book quiet by Susan Cain. And that was a book that for me, made me much more confident in my own personality in being a quieter type and not feeling like I needed to become this big alpha extrovert, leader type to be successful or to be noticed or respected.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 48:54

great resource. Thank you for sharing that. I think that's really important. Because you know, as we've, as we've talked about, being an introvert and and a lot of the people that we work with maybe also introverts wanting to know how they can just be themselves. And so I think that's a fantastic resource. Thank you. Pleasure. So, before we go, is there anything that you would like to add? If somebody would like to know more about what you do or to work with you to find where you are? How can they find you?

Saneia Norton 49:27

The best way is through my website through I am really interested in expanding my networks and working with more people. I'm endlessly fascinated in people's challenges and experiences doing their normal job as a design professional, and I'm really, really keen to support more people and get those diverse voices out there. So I think that that's the message that I'd love to leave everyone with is know that you have value, and focus on getting some of those skills and techniques to make sure your voices heard because it's really important.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 50:12

Yeah, I would say exactly the same thing. Your voice is important. No matter who you are and what your story is, it's important to be able to know how to share it to be yourself. So thank you. That's great. Great words to leave on. And just finally, are you making more podcast episodes? I'm excited to,

Saneia Norton 50:31

to hear if you are. Yes, yes, I will be. So I've got season two in the works. And I'll be working on doing those recordings in the coming month. So I will keep you posted. That information will be on my website, too.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 50:45

Okay, fantastic. Well, thank you very much. So now I have had a wonderful time talking to I think, as we said before, we could probably talk about this all day long. And no doubt we'll probably talk about it again. So thank you very much. I really appreciate it. And I'm sure everyone listening to this episode will really appreciate everything you had to say. I think it's it's been a great conversation. So thank you. Such a pleasure. Thanks, Tara. Thanks again to send out for the amazing conversation. I know a lot of you will have taken such great valuable advice from our conversation. Now, I didn't want to make today's episode too long. So I'm going to save the language examples and what I've learned from the episode with Steven and Saneia for the next episode for episode nine. And after that, I'm also going to make an episode looking at some of the business writing examples from the book that Saneia suggested in today's episode. So I look forward to sharing those two episodes with you very soon. If you enjoyed today's episode, please make sure you do me a favour and share it with somebody who you think might find it useful and I will talk to you very soon.


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