Forget Complicated…go for Clarity
July 9th, 2010
“To be simple is to be great” Ralph Waldo Emerson
A number of weeks ago I attended a dinner meeting put on by one of the ophthalmic pharmaceutical companies. It was at the end of a long day in the office and I was tired. I almost didn’t go and in many ways wished I had not. The wine was good, the dinner was nice but the talk was boring with a capital B. The speaker who I know was very experienced and intelligent seemed more concerned with impressing us with his knowledge than conveying his points clearly. My eyes were glazing over as he made concepts seem more complicated than they needed to be.
It got me thinking about what makes a great presentation and what makes someone a great communicator. I think the measure of a good communicator is not what he or she knows but what the listener knows after hearing them speak. As Albert Einstein once said “If you can’t explain it simply you don’t understand it enough”.
I remember in college how some professors could take something simple and make it complicated, but how the best professors could take something complicated and make it simple. I know some subjects are complex but I think the great communicators bring clarity not complexity to a subject.
John Maxwell in his most recent book Everyone Communicates, Few Connect gives five tips for keeping it simple and being clear with your communication.
1) Talk to People and not above them
Using big words and hard to understand phrases just frustrates anybody trying to listen to you speak. If you are more concerned with impressing the crowd with your knowledge you will most likely bomb and impress no one. Communicate at a level that is understandable and appropriate for the group you are addressing.
2) Get to the Point
Be really clear on the main point or points you want to get across and state them directly and early in the presentation. Make sure you get to the point before people are asking in their mind “What is the point”. Before you give a presentation ask yourself two questions about the group you are speaking to “What do I want them to know?” and “What do I want them to do?”
3) Say it over and over again
The best teachers and presenters tell you what they are going to tell you, then they tell you and then they tell you what they told you. You must be willing to emphasize a point.
4) Say it clearly
Don’t make the mistake of trying to cover too much ground in too little time. So many speakers put way too many concepts into one talk. Keep to the main points and don’t throw something into the presentation that does not fit because you think it sounds good. A general rule of thumb is to keep the talk to three main concepts
5) Say less
The old adage that less is more applies to communication. It takes more effort and skill to get your point across by using fewer words. The goal is to keep it simple and memorable
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