3 Ways to Be Clear to Your Audience
“Having knowledge but lacking the power to express it clearly is no better than never having any ideas at all.” – Pericles
If you are near-sighted, would you think of taking off your glasses before getting behind the wheel of your car. If you are far-sighted, would you pick up a book to read without your glasses on. Of course not. But we are OK will not making our presentations crystal clear to our audiences. I know this for a fact because I see it done all the time.
You have an obligation as a speaker to make your presentations as clear as possible to your audience. Three ways to do this are (1) give your audience an outline of your speech up front, (2) strike the jargon of your profession from your presentation, and (3) use more graphics and fewer words on your slides.
Give Your Audience a “Roadmap”
If you took a trip by car to San Francisco, would you dream of taking this trip without a map (Do they still have these?) or a map app on your phone? If you did, would you have any chance of reaching San Francisco? Of course not! Then why would you take your audience on a journey through your speech without an outline of your presentation up front?
Did you ever wonder why we use the phrase, “In the first place . . . In the second place . . .?” Ancient orators gave themselves a roadmap in their speeches by associating main points of their speeches to different parts of their homes. This aided in remembering the main points of their speeches. The first place might be the foyer to their home. The second place might be the living room and so on. So, an outline of your presentation also gives you, the presenter, a “Roadmap” to your speech and helps your audience know what the next milestone is in your “presentation journey.”
Presenting the outline of your speech up front gives the audience structure to make sense of how the different parts of your presentation fit together. Briefly repeating your preceding main points after each main point will also improve clarity of your presentation for your audience. Repetition of the main points during your presentation also enables your audience to remember what you have said after your presentation.
In each of these newsletters, I start with an opening that summarizes what you are about to read. After each main point, I list the main points again to make them “stick in your mind.” I then summarize the main points again in the closing. It is a winning formula that will increase retention of your presentation.
A “roadmap” of your presentation is essential, but it is not sufficient to make your presentation the clearest it could be. Imagine yourself taking a trip throughout Italy with a map that has words in Italian which you don’t understand. It is the same when you use professional jargon in your presentation.
Don’t Use Jargon
“The elasticity of the O-ring of the secondary booster was compromised by the low ambient temperature in the vicinity of the Space Shuttle Challenger causing a pyrotechnic explosion.” What? Try this – “One of the secondary boosters on the Space Shuttle Challenger failed causing a fire that consumed the vehicle.” OK, maybe not so simplified, but you get the message. Simply your speaking by using common language your audience can understand.
Every profession has its own jargon. This includes plumbers, doctors, carpenters, engineers, nurses, sanitation workers, lawyers, librarians, and newspaper boys to name just a few. When these and the thousands of other professions meet the general public, they need to substitute the jargon of their profession with common everyday language that everyone can understand. If your audience does not understand your words, there will be a very immediate monetary consequence.
Customers that can’t understand service providers are one-time customers. It takes on the order of seven to ten times the amount of effort to create a new customer than it does to service a repeat customer. Using common words in your presentation adds up to more revenue for you or your company.
So, you now know you have to give your audience a “roadmap” to your presentation and you know you have to reduce the jargon in your presentation. How else can you increase the clarity of your presentation? Use more graphics and less words on your slides.
Use More Graphics and Fewer Words in Your Slides
You have all heard the phrase, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Its true. An image on your slide will convey more information faster than words on your slide. It will also make your presentation much more interesting and appealing to your audience. This is never a bad thing. Why is this so? Well, imagine you select random pages in a book. Graphically, the words on different pages may look alike even though you know the meanings of the words are different. Images are instantly distinguishable from each other. You will get your point across clearly and much faster than if you used words.
For slides laden with words, the words on a single slide don’t stand out for different meanings. They flow together and lose their meanings which is what you should avoid at all cost. This indistinguishability distracts the audience from your message. Remember, you are the message. Your slides should enhance you as the message. Also, if you are using words instead of images, you are making the audience work harder. You should strive to make your slides easier for your audience to “digest.”
I always say the following about slides, “When in doubt, take it out!” Take out everything that is not relevant to your message. It is gut wrenching the first time you do this. You will be saying, “But what about if _________ asks a question about these words I am taking out.” Good question. An interim step would be to put the complex slide in the backup slides. You can always go to it if the question comes up. Better yet, put hyperlinks on your slides that go to the backup slide if you need it. Make sure you put a hyperlink on the backup slide to get back to the slide in the actual presentation.
So, now you know you have an obligation as a speaker to make your presentations as clear as possible to your audience. If you give your audience an outline of your speech up front, strike the jargon of your profession from your presentation, and use more images and fewer words on your slides you will be well on your way to making your presentation very clear to your audience.
Be clear to your audience and succeed in your presentation’s purpose!
“When the meaning is unclear there is no meaning.” – Marty Rubin
DiBartolomeo Consulting International’s (DCI) mission is to help technical professionals to inspire, motivate, and influence colleagues and other technical professionals through improving their presentation skills, communication, and personal presence.
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