Pension schemes have been urged to learn communication skills from other areas such as marketing and charities if engagement is to increase.
Independent trustee Allan Course told Pensions & Benefits UK delegates that charities got people to donate by tugging at people's heartstrings.
He argued that pensions communications also needed to appeal to people's emotions, whether that be fear or greed.
He added that while people knew they should contribute to a pension many chose not to because retirement felt like it was too far away.
He likened the situation to giving up smoking in that people know they shouldn't do it but are only likely to give it up should it start to affect their health.
"We need to remember that pensions is gobbledegook to many people and we need to keep it simple," he said.
"We need to grab their attention and appeal to their hearts rather than their heads. Why can't we be more direct with people and give them messages such as ‘Save now or regret it later - it's your choice.'"
He continued: "The pensions industry is a very conservative industry but we owe it to our members to push the boundaries back a bit as we are all far too risk averse."
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