It’s difficult to give a presentation when you have to make your complex ideas accessible to an audience that might not have background information on your topic.
We’re often told to “dumb down” presentations to make them easy to understand. But that advice might not be the best way to convey your message.
Choose Simplicity Over “Dumbing Down”
Experts believe that giving audiences too much information will confuse them. This leads to a presentation of vague information or information with missing links. And as your audience is likely to be understanding (to an extent) they’ll try to listen to your presentation before they decide that you’ve wasted their time.
Instead, choose simplicity.
This means that simplicity follows complexity, not precedes it. Your goal is to make your dense topic meaningful for your audience.
1. Narrow Down the Core of the Idea(s)
This means that you need to strip down the idea to its core essence. Anything inessential or that doesn’t add value is to be removed.
What is the core of your presentation?
Craft your presentation around this core message or idea. Adding jargon or complex language doesn’t make you seem more credible, but might have the opposite effect. Research shows that using unnecessarily long words makes you sound less intelligent.
2. Learn to Clarify
- Don’t assume your audience knows what you mean. Define your terms and acronyms.
- Break complex material down into smaller parts.
- Incorporate regular Q&A. Take a break every 10 or so minutes to ask your audience if they have any questions.
- Give evidence and demonstrate. Don’t just tell them what you know is factual.
- Show them real-life testimonials or examples.
- Reiterate. Repeat your main points because your audience will forget. Say your points and summarise what you’ve said.
3. Make a Plan
Gather common ideas or concepts and separate your presentation into these sections. Demonstrate to your audience their commonalities and their differences, and put them into a sequence that will help your audience digest information.
A way to demonstrate your ideas could be through data visualisations or infographics.
“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.” – Hans Hofmann
Remove any content which doesn’t help make your message clearer. In writing, this is often referred to as “killing your darlings.” It’s so much harder to review and edit your work when you’ve written it. To make this process more efficient you could ask a trusted colleague or friend to review your work – someone who doesn’t understand the topic either. Reviewing your content will help you make a lasting impression on your audience.
To find out how to better prepare for your next presentation, follow our blog.