From the Harvard Business Review, Nancy Duarte offers guidance to experts on how to present to a general audience. Nancy, in my mind, is the expert on presentations. I have read some of her books and watched her Ted Talk; she is amazing. With respect to her advice for experts, she writes:
1. Use metaphors to make jargon accessible. Remember what it was like before you became an expert — before all those buzzwords and acronyms crept into your discourse? Metaphorical language, a simple poetic device, can help you match thatlevel of understanding.
Consider how Jeff Hudson, the CEO of Venafi, described internet security when addressing executives in Global 5000 businesses: He likened cryptographic keys and digital certificates — which identify webservers, software, devices, apps, and critical infrastructure — to the tags attached to every cell in the human body. “Keys and certificates are blindly trusted,” he pointed out. “Cybercriminals use them to hide in encrypted traffic.” Hudson said that Venafi solved that problem by functioning like our immune system, which relies on our cells’ tags “to identify what is self and what isn’t — what to trust and what to destroy.”
2. Minimize the content on your slides. Each field has a unique way of communicating visually. You may be able to flash a dense data slide in a meeting with company or industry insiders without confusing anyone. But a broader audience will want to see the high-level findings — not the data itself.
A skin care company my firm has worked with created the charts below to show how one of its products changes the appearance of skin over time. That worked fine for internal audiences. When reaching out to young Instagrammers and bloggers, however, a marketing manager simplified the data into memorable results. That made the message more easily understood at a glance….
3. Communicate less material. Eliminate all but the most essential pieces of your talk, and then unpack concepts that are foreign to your audience. Allow yourself to take a bit more time per point than you would with your peers. Yes, cutting material and giving your points more breathing room may make you feel uncomfortable, because you’re losing nuance. But if you just do the same old talk you always do, it won’t benefit your audience or your message. The value of an idea is judged not just by its content but also by how well it’s understood. So it’s critical to remove barriers to understanding — even if those barriers are details your peers would appreciate.