Okay, ‘Complexify’ is not a real word.
But it should be. Because we all complexify our lives, our careers, and our relationships with excess baggage.
Most of my time in corporate and coaching is spent wading through this morass of baggage to get to that shiny nugget of an idea.
For years, I was the one in the meeting trying to understand a needlessly complex presentation or product. All because the presenter was trying to impress their audience by making the communication more complex. They used lots of big words. Volumes of charts. Slide upon slide of bullets.
This reminds me of a workshop I attended back in 2000 – it was with a ‘sage’ in the information architecture industry (web design). A 5-day course in Portland, Maine – in the winter – not much to do. The instructor teaches how to design web interfaces more intuitively — cut out the clutter and direct the viewer to the salient buttons to push. Why is this ironic? We sat through 200-300 slides per day, littered with bullets. I still remember some of the slides have 20-25 bulleted items per slide – it was a mess. Good information – badly presented.
So here are my commandments:
1. Complex communication is lazy. Usually, if people complexify their presentation, it’s because they haven’t thought the entire presentation through. They haven’t put themselves in the audience’s seat to view the presentation. In fact they add slides, graphs, bullets, and garbage to their communication because they are afraid of missing anything — so they just add everything. It’s like going on a trip — you’re afraid of not having the right clothes — so you bring them all.
Easy Fix: Edit, edit, edit. You need to revise constantly with an eye to shortening your communication – make it more concise – keep it clean and simple.
2. Complex communication doesn’t make you look smarter. So many executives and business owners try to be clever with their communication. They feel their college and grad school education is best portrayed with a complex and mellifluous vocabulary. The more the better. They will happily drop a report or presentation with 75 slides to give the effect they are a hard worker — just like in school when they dropped a 20 page paper on the teacher’s desk. I’m not advocating ‘dumbing it down’ — just simplifying it a bit. By the way, the teacher hated you for it.
Easy Fix: Keep your self esteem in check — people will appreciate direct, simple language and direction over complex and fuzzy information. Today, most people recognize and admire people who keep things simple and straightforward. Remember, the Gettysburg Address (263 words in length) was delivered in two minutes. That’s your goal.
3. Complex communication works against you. You might not know it, but many people probably walk out of your presentations with more questions they came in with. Are many of your email directions followed up with multiple questions? Do people on your team go in the wrong direction frequently with their duties? It might be time for you to review HOW you speak to them — they might not totally understand your intentions.
Easy Fix: At the end of a presentation or meeting with staff, ask: “Any questions? Is there anything you want me to go over again? Is everyone clear?” Be earnest and push them for questions — and don’t give them a mental demerit if they do ask a question. That’s your job — to clearly inform, direct and motivate your troops.
Rich Gee is a certified business and career coach, based locally in Connecticut. His web site is the Rich Gee Group, and you can submit your business and career questions to Rich at firstname.lastname@example.org.