Howdy – Eli here!
I remember the first time I heard the acronym KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid. I was about to step into to my first ever class teaching university sophomores the foundations of financial accounting. If you’ve taken an accounting course, you know that the subject matter is often a devilish combination of boring and complex. And if you’ve never taken an accounting course, well… congratulations on your incredible decision making skills 😉
While accounting may not have much to do with public speaking, that little innuendo’d acronym resonated quite deeply and helped me keep my classes interesting and educational. As I work with more and more people on becoming exceptional public speakers, I realized that I wasn’t the only one who had a tendency to include FAAAAR more information that I needed to in my presentations.
It turns out that most people have are prone to packing in as much information as they know into their presentations. I suspect this happens for a lot of reasons, but if you’re at all like how I used to be, you probably felt a need to include information in an effort to anticipate the objections you might get. I never wanted to be seen as missing something, and simultaneously, I wanted to be viewed as the expert by showing how much I knew about my subject.
I’ve realized that keeping things simple is the smartest thing you can do. It’s important to try and boil everything down to one core idea. If you can get your audience (big or small) aligned around that core idea, then all subsequent conversations (where you can share a multitude of new information and points) tend to become more effective. To whittle things down and get to brass tax (haha…tax…accounting joke for ya), I always ask myself two simple questions:
- When I leave the room, what is one thing I want my audience repeating?
- The key word here is “repeating”. If you can condense your key point down to a simple phrase that rolls off the tongue and is easily repeatable chances are you’ve nailed it at simplifying things.
- What must my audience understand or do?
- The key word is “must”. In a presentation there is lots of useful information that people should get, but it’s important for us as presenters to ensure we’re crystal clear on what our audience must get.
So take some time up front, before you start piecing your presentation together, to get crystal clear on the foundational idea/message/key point you’re trying to convey. Many people call this step in the process ‘dumbing it down’. But personally, I find that suggesting we’re “dumbing” things down causes people to think this step in the process is quick and simple. While it isn’t painfully hard, it certainly is worthy of time and thoughtful effort. In fact, I think this step in the process is far less about “dumbing things down” and far more about smartening things up! Taking an intricate blend of information, facts, and points that you want to share and boiling them down to a singular, simplistic core idea is absolutely the smartest thing you can do for effective public speaking! Prioritize this part of the process, and take the time to make things clean and simple for one crucial reason… so that your audience doesn’t have to.