Much has been made of the need for simplicity when it comes to communication and at some stage we have all been taught the ‘KISS” principle – ‘Keep It Simple Stupid’! I would like to make a gentler, more practical proposal for constructing a business presentation: Don’t be afraid of the simple solution – that may be staring you in the face.
I actually touched on the challenges to achieving simplicity and the clarity that usually results in my last blog (see immediately below) on the ‘Curse of Knowledge’. We tend to know too much about our subject matter to be able to explain it in simple terms.
One of the occasions on which this became most apparent to me was a few years ago when a newly formed group of doctors and other NHS bodies was making its final pitch to become a fully-certified Clinical Consulting Group. They needed help with their presentation because they were all much more used to day-to-day medical matters than they were to making persuasive arguments to bureaucrats in control of purse strings. As experts in their various fields, however, they knew everything there was to know - other than where to start, where to finish and how to cram it all into the allotted time frame. They were truly afflicted with the ‘Curse of Knowledge’.
After listening to some longwinded meanderings that were neither persuasive, nor memorable, I told them that the structure with which they were struggling was actually very simple; they already knew it and it’s up there. “Where”, they asked. “Just there”, I replied, pointing to a pop up banner that I was seeing for the first time, but had seemingly become just ‘part of the furniture’ to everyone else. Underneath the organisation’s logo the banner proudly declared: ‘Better Care, Better Health, Better Value’. “Those are presumably your founding principles and I assume you still stand by them”, I suggested to nods all round. “Well all you need to do in the presentation to get final sign off for your CCG is to give brief but compelling demonstrations of how you are delivering better care, better health and better value, ideally in that order”.
The solution had not occurred to anyone until that point, probably because it seemed too simple to be true. Within that simplicity, however, lay – from the audience’s point of view - clarity and familiarity, all wrapped up in the ‘Power of Three’. For the presenters it overcame all the agonising over structure – and the presentation content started to write itself.
So don’t be afraid of the simple solution – that just may be staring you in the face.