How To Turn Complicated Ideas Into Simple Concepts
So, you have finally been allowed to represent your team in the staff meeting where you can share all the awesomeness that your unit compiled.
Now, you are excited, but there is just this one thing dampening your happiness.
How do you pass the information across without putting your boss to sleep or coming off sounding like a Physics lecturer explaining the theories behind relativity?
To help you communicate your points easily, we have compiled a few steps to help you out, but before we get down to it, here are some things you should know.
YOUR EXPERTISE CAN BE UNDERMINED BY AN AUDIENCE THAT DOES NOT UNDERSTAND
Picture this scenario: You are an economist that one way or the other found yourself at a seminar featuring the great minds in the Physics world.
Now, you know the speakers are renowned in their various fields, but you can’t make out what they are saying.
So, you applaud when others do and spend the rest of the time looking out for hors d’oeuvres.
The bottom line is you cannot appreciate what you do not understand.
When speaking to a group of people, the goal is to simplify the complex ideas so that your listeners with little knowledge of the concept can understand.
This skill is essential, but not limited to Accountants, Doctors, Scientists, and Statisticians, because these are specific fields that guide your audience in decision making.
Hence, simplifying complex concepts should be second nature to you as it will further make things easier.
Your expertise will be of little value, except you can comfortably relay information to your superiors and colleagues in a way that will be beneficial to them and the company at large.
Thus, the ability to argue, persuade, and explain points is what sets you apart from your counterparts as far as your aspects are understood correctly.
WHAT IS MORE IMPORTANT IN YOUR PRESENTATION: THE ‘WHAT’ OR THE ‘HOW’?
Dr. Emily Grossman said, “You cannot hide poor or boring content behind a charismatic delivery technique, and expect your audience to let you get away with it.”
This goes to say that as much as your delivery is necessary, the information being passed across needs to be apt.
When conveying complex information, your content needs to be right and adequately researched.
Additionally, your mode of communication is also crucial as our first perception of a speaker has a lot to do with their body language, voice tone, and their enthusiasm.
That is to say that the primary connection between a speaker and the audience boils down to his presentation.
One primary reason why this happens is because of the brain. Dr. Emily went further to say that because of the presence of mirror neurons in mind, we are affected by the actions of others.
These neutrons make us copy the emotions of the other person we are conversing with.
Hence, the level of complexity of your idea regulates your message delivery.
You cannot and should not use a monotonous voice while explaining something that should be fascinating. Your level of excitement will be mirrored by your audience when presenting your ideas.
HOW TO TURN COMPLICATED IDEAS INTO SIMPLE CONCEPTS
We have compiled some easy steps to follow if you want to share those complex ideas with your colleagues and bosses.
- Know your audience
- Emphasize the “one thing” they should pick out.
- Make use of examples and metaphors.
- Use simple terms
Step 1. Know Your Audience
This is by far the most critical step in breaking down your ideas.
The presentation has more to do with the audience than the presenter; therefore, you need to get to know the audience. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Who are they?
- What is most important to them?
- What is their motivation?
- What is their preferred mode of communication?
Knowing the knowledge base and reference frame of your audience will guide you in the delivery of your points.
For instance, if you are a data analyst selling your idea to a group of investors, you have to focus on the monetary value of the product you are pitching, elaborating on what they stand to gain and how this gain will come about, as well as the risks that are involved.
The truth is if you do not know the background of your audience, you cannot make them understand your points.
You might find yourself speaking in layman terms to people who may appreciate some level of complexities, hence, sounding insulting.
Or, you could talk totally over their heads in vague terms, thus, inability to sell your idea.
If you take your time to understand the people you are speaking with, you can use their relatable experiences to frame your idea into a simple concept.
This is best when you have been pre-informed about the people you are meeting, but in impromptu situations, you can do a quick assessment. As soon as this is done, here’s what to do next.
Step 2. Emphasize on the “one thing” they should pick out
One famous story that accurately describes this point is one of Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal.
He was shown a PowerPoint slide intended to show the strategy of the American military strategy but ended up looking like a bowl of spaghetti. He said, “When we understand that slide, we’ll have won the war.”
This is funny, but it shows the need for decluttering your ideas and points to allow easy assimilation.
An extremely complex idea will only serve to confuse your audience without passing the information across to them.
If you force your audience to understand a bunch of ideas at once, you’ll only leave them confused and probably forgetting everything you said.
So how do you break this down?
First, answer these questions:
- What is that “one thing” I want my audience or listeners to remember about my presentation?
- Why should they be concerned about this “one thing”?
The goal here is to leave a lasting impression on your audience, for the right reason, of course.
Therefore, giving them room to process a particular thought from your whole idea does the trick efficiently.
Answering the above-listed questions will give you a particular idea to focus on that will make your audience absorbed in your presentation.
Also, when you pick this “one thing,” you decide how best to communicate it with an intensity that could create sparks mentally.
3. Make use of examples and metaphors
After much research and planning, you know the basics and complexities of your idea as well as the “one thing.”
The next step is elaborating on the “one thing” in an easy-to-understand manner.
So, below are some questions you should answer before proceeding:
- What relatable example can I use?
- Which metaphorical instance duly suits this idea?
If you blandly put your point across, yes, you will get their attention, but there will still be unanswered questions going through their heads.
Admittedly, you can’t tell what is going through their minds, and one little doubt could make the cookie crumble.
Thus, knowing the context with which to deliver your points is key to getting maximum results.
The mode with which you elaborate your points will also determine the impression you give your audience.
Additionally, the example you use should be clear and concise, easily relatable, and accurate for the concept.
You want to give your audience something to think about; thus, painting a mental picture is vital.
Keep your audience thinking and imagining your idea while making use of everyday instances to push your point home.
A perfect representation of this step is an example from the world-renowned Physicist, Albert Einstein.
He was invited to tea and asked to explain the concept of relativity.
He stood up and said he was walking with a friend of his, who was blind. It was a hot day, so he turned to his friend and said,
“I wish I had a glass of milk.”
“A glass,” replied the blind friend, “I know what that is. But what do you mean by milk?”
“Why milk is a white fluid,” explained Einstein.
“Now fluid, I know what that is,” said the blind man, “but what is white?”
“Oh, white is the color of a swan’s feathers.”
“Feathers, now I know what they are, but what exactly is a swan?”
“A swan is a bird with a crooked neck.”
“Neck, I know what that is, but what do you mean by crooked?”
At this point, Einstein said he lost his patience. He seized his blind friend’s arm and pulled it straight. “There, now your arm is straight,” he said. Then he bent the blind friend’s arm at the elbow. “Now, it is crooked.”
“Ah,” said the blind friend. “Now, I know what milk is.”
Then, he sat down.
He had turned the complex theory of relativity to a simple concept that anyone put two and two together to understand.
4. Use simple terms
Every business sector has its language and words that set it apart from others.
Since you are trying to be professional, you should consider those who are not conversant with your field. Try opting for simpler everyday words with as little acronyms as possible.
Additionally, if you must use complex terms, then ensure that you break it down and explain extensively.
Just like the story of Albert Einstein, he gradually broke down the explanation from a complex one up until he used a relatable example to illustrate his points.
Ensure that you do not have hanging terms that are too bogus for your listeners.
The definition of these terms allows your audience to connect with you quickly.
Also, you should never assume that your audience knows what a particular word means.
This is because they will not see the importance if you do not explain your idea.
These steps above are a step-by-step representation of turning that complicated idea into simple concepts.
However, there are some things to consider if you want to give an excellent presentation.
OTHER TIPS ON CLEARLY PRESENTING COMPLEX IDEAS INCLUDE:
- Be Yourself: Originality is key to having a flawless presentation. Being your best doesn’t mean emulating someone but being the best version of yourself. When giving a presentation, you should choose the most comfortable method of communicating your ideas. If you work better with charts, do charts. If you are more comfortable with PowerPoint presentations, go with a less complicated slide. Additionally, use the best method you will naturally use to convey information to your friend, as this keeps you in your comfort zone.
- Make Eye Contact: The first rule of public speaking is one about your body language, and eye contact is the first point of contact with your audience. So, make use of it unapologetically. Having a balanced level of eye contact with your audience will leave your audience entranced in your presentation while leaving you less nervous. Eye contact can help calm your nerves while presenting an idea. Consequently, when you are less tense, you will be on top of your game and deliver effortlessly. Additionally, do not stare at an individual for too long; a few seconds is enough to make an impression. Also, intentionally include everyone in the hall for maximum impact.
- Break down your presentation: As much as choosing your “one thing” is important, breaking down your ideas is also essential. No matter how complex your purpose is, as soon as you take it apart, you will be able to explain terms and processes individually. When you do this, you allow your audience to relate more with you. Try imaging your presentation as trying to cross a stream, using stepping stones. These stones are your ideas broken down, and missing a step will be fatal; therefore, carefully go through your presentation while carrying your audience along. Additionally, describe how the broken bits and pieces come together to build up your concept.
- Avoid distracting movements: Moving around while delivering your presentation can appeal to your audience and can add excitement. However, it is crucial to know how to balance this, as excess movement can be distracting to the audience. Additionally, keep your move attuned to the kind of emotion you are hoping to get across. Avoid unnecessary movements that could give your nervousness away, such as fiddling, swaying, standing still (yes, it can be a distraction too), excessive hand movements, among others.
- Embrace Adrenaline: It is common to have adrenal overdrive when you are about to make a presentation. Most times, this could be crippling and make you deliver less than you can. However, there are ways to make adrenaline work for you. Embrace adrenalin as a feeling of excitement instead of fear, and you will find your nerves working for you.
- Compare and Contrast: When presenting, use examples that will reveal how different your idea is different from the already existing one. Ensure that you use relatable instances to avoid confusing them further. Also, compare it to what they are already familiar with, as this will give a leveled starting point. Duly go through the features of your idea as well as the benefits yours will provide in comparison to the last one. However, if there is no initial knowledge, try to relate your plan with a different but similar scenario that will be understood.
- Be Concise: Another rule to keeping things simple is to go straight to the point without jumbling information up. This step is even better while you are still preparing for the presentation. This will let you adjust your starting sentence and allow you to narrow it down to non-complex information. Also, ensure that you understand it well enough to explain it easily.
- Maximize the use of Analogies: Steve Jobs, in an interview, once described the computer as a bicycle for our minds. He likened a complex idea to an everyday example, which made his audience understand him better. He continuously used analogies to get his points across without making his ideas complex.
This is a skill in itself, and this requires some level of practice as much as the ability to think quick on your feet.
Whenever you share your ideas, prepare a bag of relatable analogies as well as metaphors to drive your point home.
This is because not everyone will understand at the same level; thus, use this as a method of turning your complicated ideas into simple concepts.
Turning a complex idea into a simple concept may sometimes sound complex on its own; however, the steps outlined above are guaranteed to help you deliver accurately.
When preparing for your presentation, remember to make for all kinds of audience: those who know what you are talking about, those who know a fair amount, and those who don’t know anything about it.
When you prepare this way, you are ready to walk just about anyone through your presentation with ease.
Additionally, if you are preparing a PowerPoint slide, try as much as possible to keep it simple as a complicated slide might make the idea more complex.
Also, before you mount the podium or take the floor, do some nerve-calming exercises to keep your prepared outline still in mind.
Some breathing exercises may be of help as well as meditating (not worrying) about your presentation.
Remember also to have fun and smile occasionally to ease the tension.
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