Want to simplify a complex message? There are only two things to master

11th March 2014

Simplifying the complex is a critical skill. The better you do it, the easier others find it to understand and engage with your messages.

But it doesn’t seem easy. After all, complex things are… well, complex. The good news is: it’s easier than you think. Here’s an example to show what I mean…

If you want to be a better networker, it can seem hard to do. There are just so many things to focus on. With something as complex as networking, where do you start? Well fortunately, there are only three things you need to focus on:

  • Preparation before – obtain the Guest List, set your goals, shine your shoes etc
  • During – have good conversations with good people
  • Follow-up after – proactive, prompt comms with these people, to ensure you achieve your goals

And, to ensure you have good networking conversations at the event? This too could be complex. But it isn’t. In fact, there are only four things that matter:

  • Getting into the conversation
  • Asking about them
  • Speaking about you
  • Closing the conversation

And this first step of networking – getting into a conversation – how to master that? Well, there are only two things that matter:

  • Who to approach; and
  • What to say to them

You see, to simplify complex topics – such that people understand the big picture instantly – you only need do two things:

  1. Say the word “only”
  2. Use a small number

Doing this immediately gives your audience context (so they “get it”) and comfort (so they think it’s do-able). See how I did this with all the examples above?

Even better: it doesn’t always matter how you simplify it. But it matters that you do so.

For example, at the top of this Tip, I split communication into three things – before, during and after. Instead, I could have split networking into:

  • face-to-face and online; or
  • feel confident on the inside; say the right things on the outside; or
  • feel right, look right, speak right
  • and so on

It doesn’t matter. As long as the recipient sees the big picture, you’ve made a great start.

And so a question to finish: do you want to be better at simplifying complex messages? If so, the great news is that you only need do these four things when communicating it:

  • Identify the action you want people to take after they have heard your message
  • List the topics you need to communicate, to motivate them to take it
  • Group these topics into a small number of key areas (ideally 2-3; and definitely no more than five)
  • Start by saying the word “only” and the small number

Action point

Find this Tip useful?

Great – there are only three things to do (!):

  • Look at this week’s diary
  • Identify your first opportunity to simplify a complex message
  • Use the steps in this Tip to do so

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