Simplicity is the key word behind any successful presentation. Simplicity in preparation when creating and organising messages; simplicity in design—if you choose to use a visual support—, simplicity (or naturalness) in delivery.
Unfortunately, when it comes to presentations, many people confuse simplicity with simplistic, which is not the case. In reality, simplicity is not easy to achieve. It’s hard because you have to take responsibility for removing—you have to remove anything that doesn’t add value to your message. Those who are less experienced tend to play safe and include every single detail on their slides because they think that everything is important. But if everything is important, nothing is important. Picasso also said that “art is the elimination of the unnecessary.”
When preparing a presentation, always ask yourself what the essence of your message is. If there is one thing that your audience should absolutely remember, what is it? That's what you have to focus your presentation on.
The secret to capturing people’s attention is not to bombard them with new information, but to provide only the information they need. How many times have you left a website because there was too much information and you didn't know where to look? The only way to stand out is to think—and communicate—the opposite way. Let me give you a couple of examples:
- Why are Apple products so successful? They are successful (also) because they are simple and intuitive.
- Why do you notice McDonald's billboards? Because they communicate one message only: There's a McDonald's 200 metres away.
This holds true not only when it comes to organising content but also when it comes to designing presentations. If you think about the presentation tool you normally use (PowerPoint or Keynote in most cases) the difficulty is not in learning all the functions of that tool—the difficulty is in ignoring most of the functions so that you can focus on the few principles and techniques that really make a difference.
As Leonardo Da Vinci used to say, “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
If you want to learn more about how to make better presentations, download my report Top 7 Mistakes People Make When Creating Business Presentations