Thursday, July 24, 2014

How to Present Complicated Information That Anyone Can Understand

We’ve become a world that communicates in two-minute sound bites and 140 characters, but how can anyone expect you to explain complex information so quickly and concisely?
Well, they do – and you can.
Many of those who work with complex information believe it can’t be done, and hence we have the mind-numbing, jargon-riddled, overloaded PowerPoint presentations that do little to engage or inform. That can be frustrating for everyone involved, and even disastrous for your career or company if a boss or customer ignores what you’re trying to tell them.
So how do you present complicated information that anyone can understand?
Just as you would any other information. It needs to be clear, concise and told in a compelling way. Just because the information is complex doesn’t cancel out the need to be a good storyteller and convey your information in a way that educates and moves your listeners to action, experts say.
If you’re looking for some ways to become better at communicating complex information, consider:
  • Being concise. As Albert Einstein once said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” Try to keep your opening sentence to less than 50 words. After that, use the “Twitter test” and try to reduce each important point down to 140 characters. You may not hit that number exactly, but it will force you to think of boiling the information down to the bare bones.
  • Taking an improvisation class. At Vanderbilt University, for example, students are put through improvisational theatre to help them be more relatable when conveying complex ideas. Improvisation classes have been shown to teach people to react and adapt to situations and to think more creatively. Learning to think on your feet can be critical when you’re conveying complicated information, because you need to be able to change tactics if your audience isn’t grasping the information.
  • Learning to tell stories. Scientists and other technical experts often begin a report with data and statistics, but that bores listeners. By thinking (read more here)

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