Discussing a complex topic? Don’t let your audience get lost in the “land of jargon and expertise!” [Wednesdays: “Speak on the Shoulders of Giants”]
How do you tackle a complex topic in front of an audience?
… push through with your presentation as is, not changing anything?
… reduce the number of jargons?
… simplify your sentences and use analogies to help your audience understand your message?
While it’s true that things can get a bit tricky in discussing complex topics in public speaking, as a speaker, you have to make sure that your listeners don’t get lost in the “land of jargon and expertise.”
According to Jim Harvey, the Managing Director of The Message Business:
“Expertise has no value to an audience that doesn’t understand.”
No matter how accomplished you are in your career or industry, your expertise is of neutral value unless you can effectively communicate what you know to other people.
By “communicate,” we mean saying what you know in a way your audience understands.
In fact, one of your jobs as a speaker is to simplify complicated concepts related to your field so other people (with less knowledge on the topic) can understand and use that information in their own lives.
How can you do that in your speech or presentation?
One way is through your explanation.
As stated in Chris Anderson’s book titled, “TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking,” explanation is the act that “consciously adds a new element to someone’s mental model or reorders existing elements in a more satisfying way.”
If one of the goals of your talk is to build a memorable and useful idea in your audience’s minds, explanation is an essential tool to achieve that.
Here are tips to help you tackle tough topics without giving your listeners a hard time understanding your message:
- Know your audience.
One of the things you should consider when unboxing a complex idea in your presentation is the audience and their familiarity with the topic.
Know their current level of understanding first before you discuss your main idea with them.
To do that, ask yourself the following questions:
Who am I speaking to?
What do they already know about my subject?
What else do they need to know?
What are the gaps I need to fill in for them as I talk about my topic?
For example: You’re going to talk about Blockchain technology in your presentation.
In case you’re not familiar with it, Blockchain is a software of recording information that makes it impossible to change, hack, or cheat an entire network of computer systems.
If you’re speaking to an audience of software engineers, it would be reasonable to tackle the software’s features, technology, coding, and other technical aspects to them.
What if you’re discussing Blockchain with a group of business executives who don’t have much knowledge in IT and engineering?
How will you effectively get your message across?
Will you explain it as you would to software engineers and IT professionals?
Of course not!
You have to adjust your delivery to meet the needs of the business executives. They might not be interested in Blockchain’s technology, but they might be interested in its strategic business applications.
If that’s the case, you have to tailor your presentation based on that interest so they will have a message to take home from your talk.
Remember: The same topic but with a different audience calls for a different approach. Every audience needs to feel as though your message is laser-focused to their needs.
- Keep your speech or presentation simple.
Overloading your audience with a lot of information and jargon can be counterproductive.
Instead of clarity, it can result in more confusion―even boredom―on their part.
So… how much detail does your audience really need?
Just enough information.
Stay out of the weeds when presenting complex information so that your audience clearly understands why your topic matters and how it can be applied in their situation without feeling overwhelmed.
According to Neen James, author of the book titled, “Attention Pays”:
“Keep it simple, but don’t oversimplify.”
- Use figures of speech such as metaphors and similes.
A metaphor is a figure of speech that directly refers to one thing by mentioning another for an added rhetorical effect.
“The snow is a white blanket.”
In the sentence above, “snow” is referred to as a “white blanket” because of the similar characteristics they share―they are both white and cover the surface on which they are on.
On the other hand, a simile is a comparison of how 2 different objects are alike in a particular aspect.
In this sentence:
“Raising children is like gardening―you have to nurture them and be patient.”
The example compares the pattern that is similar to both raising children and gardening. By stating something familiar to the audience (gardening), the speaker is able to make abstract ideas (raising children) more concrete.
How can you effectively use metaphors or similes in your speech or presentation?
By using comparisons that are relevant and familiar to the audience.
One of the key parts in your talk is to have the right balance between the concepts you are introducing and the examples and analogies needed to make them understandable.
Remember you’re using these figures of speech to help enlighten your audience. If the statements you use are not familiar to them, it will result in confusion rather than clarity.
That defeats the purpose of why you’re using metaphors and similes in the first place.
Don’t make your comparisons too complicated―the simpler and more familiar your examples are, the easier it will be for the audience to understand your message.
According to Chris Anderson, many of the best TED speakers achieved their greatness through “masterful explanation.”
Though some of those talks tackled complex topics, the audience understood the message without getting bored because the speakers explained the ideas effectively.
Complex ideas don’t have to be difficult to deliver as well.
Just take note of the tips mentioned above―know your audience, simplify the information you present, and draw comparisons with things that are familiar!
Once you’ve incorporated these things in your speech or presentation, it will be easier for you to explain difficult concepts with clarity.
When this happens…
Not only will you get your message across, but you’ll also leave a lasting impression on your audience!
About The Dynamic Marketing Communiqué’s
“Wednesdays: Speak on the Shoulders of Giants”
In a meeting with one person
…a boardroom with five people
…or a huge venue with hundreds of people
—whatever the situation or setting, it’s very important to learn and eventually master the art of public speaking.
No matter what, you always need to effectively get your message across.
What good is a presentation with awesome content if you don’t deliver it properly?
Every Wednesday, we publish different tips, insights, and secrets on how you can improve your presentation skills to captivate your audience and lead interesting discussions.
The need for great presentation skills applies EVERYWHERE.
(Small meetings with your team, big meetings with your boss, an important marketing pitch, speaking engagements for events with a big audience, etc.)
Learning these skills is not just for the corporate world. Being in other industries such as the Arts, Information Technology, Medicine, and Education while knowing how to present well will definitely give you an edge.
Have that advantage.
Hope you’ve found this week’s public speaking tip interesting and helpful.
Stay tuned for next Wednesday’s Speak on the Shoulders of Giants!
Head of Marketing
Valens Dynamic Marketing Capabilities
Powered by Valens Research