Making the Complex Simple

Making the Complex Simple

Created: Monday, November 12, 2012 posted by at 4:00 am

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By Jim Endicott

This is a video post, and also includes a text transcript below the video.

Jim reflects on one young “presenter” who had an incredible knack for making the complex seem pretty simple. So simple in fact, that Jim and a few family members made some purchases they would quickly regret.
Making the Complex Simple

Hi, this is Jim Endicott with Distinction Communication. I vividly remember Thanksgiving 2009. Not so much for the Thanksgiving meal but for what happened the day afterward. The gals, when they got up at the crack of dawn headed off for Christmas shopping. The guys — we sat around the house, had leftovers, watched the few bowl games, and then we decided we were going to go shopping too. So we headed off to Fry’s, a great electronic superstore and when we got there, it was absolutely packed. Wall to wall with people! We hit at the front doors and we noticed that something was happening in the middle of the store. So we pushed our way to the front of the crowd.

When we got there, here’s what we saw: An 18-year-old kid demoing radio-controlled helicopters. And he was pretty phenomenal — he could take those things off and land them in the palm of people’s hands. Hover them over the crowds, fly them underneath shelves, and when he was done with his demo, the boxes of radio-controlled helicopters at his feet — they began to disappear!

Everybody wanted one — and so did we. So we each bought one, took it home, put them together, charged them up, and then we were in for a big surprise. Wasn’t as easy as it looked! We powered them up, and they began crashing into the walls, crashing into windows and mirrors. Helicopter blades were flying everywhere! And we began to gain a whole new appreciation for that 18-year-old kid.

And so it is with good business communicators today. It’s the sales professional who can take a very technical topic, and make it easy to understand for his prospects and customers. It’s the marketing professional who may have a very convoluted value proposition but can distill it down for the masses. Or maybe it is the senior executive who works every day with some very complicated business metrics, but has a way of making it easy to understand for all the employees who want to know what’s going on.

Simple messages supported by simple visuals and simple key takeaways — but so often today we have a way of making the complex more complex! So I want to give you a couple of ideas for helping to simplify — drive the complexity out of your next presentation:

  1. First practice delivering your presentation on someone neutral. Sometimes we are just too closed to our presentation messages. We deliver them over and over again, and for God, what it’s like to hear that presentation for the very first time? So practice delivering your presentation to someone with little or no orientation to your topic. If they understand it, your message is right on track. If they give a blank stare, won’t this be time to take a fresh approach?
  2. The second point: Create your last presentation slide first. Be laser-focused on how your presentation concludes. Create the last summary slide in your presentation first, and ask yourself: Do all the slides in my presentation drive towards those simple conclusions, or are there frequent rabbit trails that really add no value? One additional challenge: use three words only to summarize your presentation and take 30 seconds to close, not 5 minutes.
  3. The next point: Use the 7 second rule. Most people would agree that the best presentation visuals are the simplest ones. But very few people take the extra effort to distill down their visual content.
  4. Finally, paste your presentation message. Most presenters try to cram 60 minutes of content into a 60-minute time slot and it never fits! Rushing through presentation slides all but guarantees that even the simplest messages get lost in a volume of words. Create content that fits 70 percent of the time available. You’ll rush less — your audience will simply get more!

Thanks for sitting in on today’s video blog. Maybe it’s about time you made your presentation just a little bit simpler. Simpler key messages, simpler visuals, simpler key takeaways. If you are serious about getting better at the art of presenting, sharpening, and honing your own skills, check out our website at Distinction Communication.

Jim Endicott

Jim Endicott
Jim Endicott is an internationally-recognized management consultant, executive coach and author. Jim’s company, Distinction Communication Inc., works with clients ranging from Fortune 500 executives to small business start-ups to help them enhance the personal communication effectiveness of those tasked with communicating high-stakes, high-profile messages.

Jim has also been a Jesse H. Neal award‐winning columnist for Presentations magazine and has also contributed presentation‐related content to magazines like Business Week, Consulting, Selling Power and the Portland Business Journal.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog post or content are those of the authors or the interviewees and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer, or company.

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