Monday, April 23, 2012

Can you explain that to an 11-year-old?

Communicating can be tough sometimes. We know what we mean, and we say what makes sense to us. But sometimes it makes no sense to our audience.

I work a lot with CEOs and corporate boards to help them deliver clear, simple messages. I use the analogy that all media trainers know, which is to ask the interviewee to imagine they are speaking to a normal 11-year-old. That doesn't require childish language, but it does require simple and clear language. While it's easy to use over-complicated language that some audiences don't comprehend, it's almost impossible to be too simple.

One exercise that we do is to look for examples of speech that could be made much simpler. Here are a few (11-year-old version in brackets):

Let's think outside the box (We need to be more creative)

Change is the only constant (Things always change)

We need to reach out to our core demographic (We need to send our best customers a message)

Let's pick the low-hanging fruit (Let's do the easy stuff first)

In the current economy (Now)

Best of breed (Best)

Incentivise (Offer a reward)

Bring to the table

Take it to the next level (Make it a lot better)

Care to share any of your own examples?

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