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How to communicate complex information

We all want people to listen to us when we
speak. But this is really difficult when we’re
giving a talk, presentation, or sharing something on the internet. The problem isn’t that people are rude,
easily distracted, or overwhelmed. The problem is we’re bad at communicating. Most of us are good at communicating in small
groups with our friends and family. But the moment we’re “on”, the moment
we feel the spotlight on us, we forget all of the rules of communication…probably because
they’re unwritten rules no one teaches us. I know this firsthand. Back in the 1990s, I was DESTROYED in my first
speech and debate competition. I hid behind my notes, spit out a bunch of
facts, and didn’t say anything that really mattered to the people in the room. I came in last place in my event. But I kept at it. Through years of speech and debate, teaching,
storytelling, I’ve learned a lot about how to speak so that others will listen. Here are my top 10 tips. Know your audience The first thing I do when I prepare a talk
is ask myself: Who is my audience, why are they here, and what do they value? If you can’t answer these questions, you
run the risk of giving a talk that no one will care about. But when you use examples that make sense
to the audience, when you dress and talk the way they dress and talk, you open them up
to hearing you out. Highlighting shared values, things that you
and the audience both care about above all else, is the key to winning people over to
your point of view. Talk to someone who knows your audience then
build a message that resonates with your audience’s perspective. Lead with awesome People take seconds to decide whether or not
to pay attention to you. Instead of a slow build up, begin with a powerful
question, your most interesting idea, or a striking image. Here’s a good example from this channel. Everyone loves brownies. But if I took these delicious brownies and
made them look like this, would you still eat them? Tell a story Before videos, powerpoints, and blogs, humans
shared stories. Stories take complex information and make
it easy to understand. If you’re thinking “I’m not a good storyteller”,
that’s a lie! You’re a great storyteller, you do it all
the time with your friends and family. You just forget to do it or try too hard when
you’re talking publicly. Start your talk with a personal story related
to your overall message and tie back to it at the end. If you can’t think of a story to tell, use
these prompts: Want some story inspiration? Go see a live Moth event, listen to The Story
Collider podcast, and read TED Talks. Make it emotional We like to think that we’re logical beings
who think like scientists looking for truth. But the main job of our thoughts is to defend
what we’re feeling. We don’t have an internal scientist, we
have a lawyer who creates arguments that protect an emotional client. If your talk isn’t making someone feel something,
it isn’t going to do much to change their thinking either. Psychologist Jonathan Haidt describes it like
this: “A dog’s tail wags to communicate. You can’t make a dog happy by forcibly wagging
its tail. And you can’t change people’s minds by
utterly refuting their arguments.” Emotions activate people, get them thinking,
and make content viral. If you can find a way to get your audience
to feel what you’re saying, then you have a chance at getting them to think about it
too. Bridge new information with old information If you’re presenting on something, you probably
know a lot about it. But I might not know anything about this topic. You have to help me learn this new information
by bridging it with something I already know. I’ll let Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson
explain: It is the pop culture scaffold on which I
clad the science that we unravel…You don’t have to teach them pop culture. They already know who Beyonce is, what football
is, who the Kardashians are. If they come in with that, and we analyze
that scaffold, and say here’s science that can fit this and that section and the other
section, you walk away not so much with an enhanced appreciate of science but an enhanced
understanding of the pop culture stuff you already care about and realize that science
is infused everywhere. When I’m teaching someone about cognitive
dissonance, I tell them their mind fights off dangerous ideas the same way the immune
system fights viruses. That’s a lot more effective than talking
about how the mind strives for consistency between beliefs and actions. Use everyday language Stop using big words! I know you think they make you sound smarter
but they don’t. Psychologist Daniel Oppenheimer studied this
and discovered that simple writing sounds smarter than complicated writing. High school and college students often use
more complicated language than they need to. But the biggest offenders are scientists and
professionals. They often rely on complicated jargon. Jargon is great when you’re communicating
with colleagues but it alienates audiences who are outside of your profession. To paraphrase Einstein, if you can’t explain
it without jargon, you don’t know it well enough. Run your talk, script, or article through
a readability tool and check it’s grade level. The most bestselling authors all wrote an
elementary or middle school grade levels. The simpler you write, the larger your audience
will be. Only use text when you have to People can read faster than you can talk. If you’re reading from a powerpoint, the
audience has already beat you to the end of the slide. Instead of text, fill your presentations with
emotional images. You should only use text when it adds value
to what you’re saying or emphasizes an important point. Stephen Colbert’s “The Word” is a great
example of this. Every text extends on the meaning of everything
he’s already said. To learn more about this pickup a copy of
Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds. Engage your audience Here’s a secret teachers never tell you
– lectures aren’t that effective. They good for clarifying information and presenting
new information, but what’s much more helpful is active learning, collaborative learning,
techniques that get people to think and do on their own. Give your audience a way to experience your
content. Stop your talk and ask them to think about
a question, then share their response to the person next to them, and then after that get
everyone to share aloud to the group. Ask your community to help you decide what
type of content they want to see next. Start a conversation at the end of your video. Be real People often tell me, “What I want to say
has already been done”. I don’t care what’s already been said,
written, or filmed. It’s never been said in your voice, from
your perspective, with your story. Don’t try to be what you think people want
you to be, that person already exists. Be yourself because everything is more interesting
when you are honestly being yourself. Build value People have a REALLY good BS radar. We can easily figure out if someone is trying
to promote themselves, their organization, or their profession. If your audience smells BS, they’re going
to tune you out. Give them something valuable. A new perspective. A helpful tip. Connection to resources. If you are able to do this consistently, you’ll
never have to promote yourself, people will start coming to you because you’ve already
given them so much. What are your favorite presentation, public
speaking, and storytelling tips? Let me know in the comments below!

6 Replies to “How to communicate complex information”

  • Here are the top 10 tips:

    1) Know your audience
    2) Lead with awesome
    3) Tell a story
    4) Make it emotional
    5) Bridge new information with old information
    6) Use everyday language
    7) Only use text when you have to
    8) Engage your audience
    9) Be real
    10) Build value

    Check out the description for lots more resources about public speaking and the psychology of communication.

  • I have one and only public speaking tip that I was taught that helped me alot: Say you are nervous.

    Expressing and sharing the tension with the audience has helped me through tough spots. There's tons of reasons and ways to do this, but the most simplest one is just to start with it.

  • Omg, this video was fantastic. (long rant lol this is always the problem) I've been watching videos on storytelling and the like recently to help make my videos more concise (I study educational neuroscience to help bolster my skills for teaching English in Japan and want to help people apply them in their own lives, if possible). I've noticed my conversations recently have tended to veer toward what I'm studying (it's difficult to think of anything else) and I notice that most people don't care (like what you said in the video). I haven't been able to figure out how to simplify the concepts and jargon. So, I will use this video as a foundation to rethink a lot of what I've been doing. Thank you so much. 😀 Ah, I just watched your video on mental health and how you wish you didn't have to go back to comments on older videos. Sorry. I really liked it, though.

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