Why complexity is your enemy

1: One of the biggest mistakes we make as presenters is being overly complicated and sharing too much information.

“Any fool can make something complicated. It’s hard to make something simple,” says Virgin founder Richard Branson in Carmine Gallo‘s The Storyteller’s Secret.  

“From the beginning, Virgin used clear, ordinary language,” Richard recalls.  “If I could quickly understand a campaign concept, it was good to go. If something can’t be explained on the back of an envelope, its rubbish.”

Be clear and be concise, Sir Richard believes:  “Say what you mean and mean what you say and preferably in as few well-chosen words as possible.”

2: To be a good storyteller, we are wise to begin with a single “big” idea before expanding on the details.

“Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers,” says Colin Powell.

“Every great story needs a title,” writes Carmine.  “In a business pitch, the title is the headline—the one sentence that’s going to grab my listeners’ attention and put the narrative into context. It should be specific, succinct, and ‘Twitter friendly’ (140 characters or less).”

3: Who mastered this practice?

Steve Jobs.

He “was a master of simplicity and turned the business presentation into an art form,” Carmine writes.

Whenever Steve introduced a new product, he would describe it using one perfectly crafted sentence.

The iPod was “1,000 songs in your pocket.”

The MacBook Air was “the world’s thinnest notebook.”

“Simple can be harder than complex,” Steve once said. “You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”

The storyteller’s secret?

“Great stories start with great headlines that capture the one key message behind an idea.” 

More tomorrow.

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Reflection:  When presenting, do I tend to share too much information?

Action: Summarize my next presentation into a single sentence that tells the audience why they should care.

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