Plenary sessions

We will be updating our session pages as we finalise our programme


David Boyle.jpg

David Boyle

Poacher turned gamekeeper
David’s presentation is based on the absolute importance of taking a plain English approach to even the most complicated aspects of long-term saving and investing. Using KiwiSaver and his experience in the funds management industry, he’ll show how far the industry has come in its approach. He’ll challenge the industry even further in the areas that will help to improve New Zealanders’ overall financial wellbeing.  He’ll also put the spotlight on changes to the Sorted website and highlight the unique ways that have been developed to connect with people of all levels of investor capability. 


Julie Clement

Julie Clement

Breaking the legalese barrier:  how to reach students and new professionals
A roundtable discussion at PLAIN’s Vancouver conference inspired me to continue to explore why law students who are taught to use plain language are so eager to use legalese as soon as they are in practice (or before). My research has uncovered a variety of subtle and not-so-subtle influences that keep the plain-language community from making more progress, especially with new lawyers and other new professionals. This session explores those influences, introduces a variety of strategies to overcome them, and invites participants to strategize about their own solutions. The session will draw on research in our own field, as well as research in psychology, rhetoric, consumer behavior, and other areas. 

Delegates will get an understanding of why people entering a new profession are so committed to using legalese or similar profession-specific jargon. Armed with this understanding, delegates will learn about strategies to overcome these barriers. Finally, delegates will have the opportunity to brainstorm about other strategies that might be effective in more specialized situations. 


Charlene Haykel

Charlene Haykel

Addressing systemic complexity: Or how to achieve sustainable clarity, once and for all
While we suffer incomprehensibility one document (or web screen) at a time, most complexity problems are ‘systemic’ in nature. Effective solutions must therefore address systemic, macro issues if the clarity sought in individual documents is to be sustained across an organization and over time. Charlene Haykel has developed such a process. Macrosimplification™ applies the principles and techniques for simplifying a single document to hundreds of such documents or screen pages across product and division lines of large organizations. Macrosimplification™ builds leaner, more effective communications around core content, typically reducing content volume by 20–30%. It also achieves sustainable clarity by tackling, head-on, organizational issues of staffing, training, culture and cost. Haykel will use case studies to show how a 20–30% reduction in word count consistently results in more manageable, clear and comprehensible, and cost-effective communications. She will lead delegates through a discussion of the practical challenges of improving language and content access at their companies and agencies. She’ll show them how, when dealt with on a macro level, communications can be clarified once and for all.  


Rob Hulls

Rob Hulls

Listenability and the law   
The value of effective communication is well recognised in the provision of written information about the law and its mechanisms. So is the importance of procedural fairness, including perceptions by court users that they have been treated with respect. Less well understood in the Australian context is the role that verbal communication plays - not only in the experience of its users, but their ability to comply with the law. Drawing on a range of Centre for Innovative Justice (CIJ) projects, Director Rob Hulls will highlight lessons from work to increase compliance with family violence protection orders, as well as research regarding the experiences of criminal justice system users with an Acquired Brain Injury (ABI).   Exploring common themes, Rob will highlight the way in which ‘listenability’ has a crucial role when compliance with the law is involved. Going beyond comprehension to communication which mitigates the effects of stress and other impairment, ‘listenability’ becomes vital to access to justice and community safety. Outlining findings from further research in this area, the CIJ will seek to use this work to help users of the justice system navigate its complexities and comply more effectively with the law.   


Neil James

Neil James

Evaluating legal documents
Presenting with Susan Kleimann. What this plenary will cover:
In this session, Neil and Susan will explore how to evaluate whether a legal text is using plain language. The presenters will bring together a broad spectrum of evaluation tools in a single framework in three categories:

  • text-focused methods
  • user-focused methods
  • outcome analysis

Part one of the session will reinforce how critical evaluation is for plain language, but also the wide range of tools we can deploy. More importantly, Neil and Susan will outline five key criteria that can help authors select the right mix and scale of evaluation methods:

  • reader profile
  • complexity
  • intended outcomes
  • context
  • risks.

Part two of the session will show how authors can apply these criteria to select the right evaluation model, using case studies if legal documents in context such as precedents for transactions, standard terms and conditions. legal advices, briefs to council, and court submissions. Whether you're a plain language practitioner or a practising lawyer, this session will provide a practical approach to evaluating your texts.

Dr James is also presenting on (on behalf of Sandra Fisher-Martins) the plenary session 'Plain language in the public sector: An international survey'. He is also Chair of the conference's closing panel discussion, 'The Business of Clarity'. 


Susan Kleimann

Susan Kleimann

How quant studies can work with qualitative development projects
Presenting with Neil James. The U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's development of the application and closing mortgage disclosures relied on several rounds of qualitative interview sessions across geographically dispersed sites. The final product achieved excellent results with participants being able to make sophisticated tradeoffs, even with highly complex products. To validate these qualitative results, a quantitative study compared performance on 4 dimensions: 1. Consumers (experienced vs. inexperienced borrowers); 2. Loan Type: (fixed rate vs, Adjustable rate);  3. Difficulty (easy vs. complicated loans); and 4.Disclosure (current vs.  proposed). This presentation will discuss the results in each major category and how one predicted issue resulted in one major change in the proposed disclosure. 


Zane Scarborough

Zane Scarborough

To trust or not to trust? 
Who do we listen to for advice and guidance when we need it? In a personality-driven culture, we might assume that assertive and dominant people are the most persuasive among us. However, you don’t need to be the loudest person in the room to convince people that what you have to say is worth listening to. So what is an alternative approach? Maybe the first and most important question we need to ask is: how do we engender trust in an audience? In this session, we’ll unpack the idea of trust and see how it can help us to communicate compelling and powerful messages to friends, colleagues, and audiences.  

A coach in the art of powerful speech making and writing, Zane offers a fresh perspective on advocating for plain language. If you’ve ever had to deal with colleagues who don’t care, are openly negative, or who see a push for clarity as a nice-to-have, you’ll leave this session primed for success. 


Christopher Trudeau

Christopher Trudeau

The Public Speaks, Again: A Sneak Preview of a New International Study 
Have you ever wished you had evidence on how the public perceives legal communication in your country? If so, then this session is for you. You’ll be among the first to see new empirical evidence discussing what the public wants when they read legal information. This new study, which is a follow-up to The Public Speaks: An Empirical Study of Legal Communication, targets responses from the U.S., the U.K., Canada, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. The study will gather data on such things as using legal terms of art, overusing jargon, and many other hallmarks of traditional legal language. This data will then be compared by and between countries, which will provide much needed evidence to support Clarity’s mission. Come find out what we can learn from this new evidence.    


Caitlyn Whiteman

Caitlin Whiteman

Why 21st century consumer policy needs plain language
The modern push for plain language emerged from the consumer rights movements of the 1970s. Since then, technological advances and intensified competition have dramatically transformed the consumer landscape, with consumers today faced with a wide and often bewildering array of complex products and services.  
 
As complexity has grown, the emphasis in consumer policy has shifted away from prescriptive regulation and market intervention in favour of consumer information and education approaches. And most recently, the emerging discipline of behavioural economics has drawn attention not only to the critical role of information, but also to the subtleties of how it's provided and to the pitfalls of information overload. 
 
What can plain language practitioners contribute to the central goals of 21st century consumer policy: consumers who know their rights and are equipped to make good decisions? How do we frame our work in a way that resonates with policymakers? And what must governments and plain language advocates alike remember about the limits of information as a policy tool — particularly for vulnerable consumers?  
 
Using real-world examples from telecommunications, utilities and the financial services, this presentation will draw out the relevance of consumer policy trends for plain language practitioners and advocates


Closing panel

The Serious Business of Clarity

This 45-minute panel will highlight the conference theme ‘The Business of Clarity’, reminding us that clarity — the very name of the conference and the organisation behind it — is not a ‘nice-to-have’ or an afterthought. Instead it is a business-centred approach, led by skilled professionals, that:

  • improves the business bottom line
  • has significant financial and ethical benefits for government and not-for-profit organisations, and
  • ensures access to justice, protection for consumers, and a fairer, more equitable society.

Led by Dr Neil James, Executive Director of the Plain English Foundation and Silver sponsor of Clarity2016, panellists will draw together the various themes and diverse contributions from the last 2 days. It’s their job to make sure you walk away with a renewed appreciation that clear communication needs to be the foundation of business and government today.

Panellists

Panellists will draw together the various conference strands and contributions that support the overall theme.

Chair: Dr Neil James

Panelists:

  • Christopher Trudeau: (US) representing the legal profession and the impact plain language can have on citizens and consumers
  • Kirk Hope: (NZ) representing the business community including employers and manufacturers
  • Melanie Biss: (Australasia) representing a large Australasian bank that has adopted a plain language approach to its contracts and policies
  • Anne-Marie Chisnall: (NZ) representing plain language professionals everywhere and their contribution to ‘The Business of Clarity’ in law, finance, health, and more
  • Charlene Haykel: (US ) bringing her business perspective as a simplification specialist working with large communication systems in organisations