Do you want to know a surprising secret about great communicators? Great communicators use the K.I.S.S. method. The K.I.S.S method (which stands for Keep it Simple Stupid) proposes that the most effective communication is the simplest to understand.
As a college professor, I see the opposite all the time. Students M.I.S.S. instead. They Make It Stunningly Sophisticated. Students often think that in order to appear intelligent, they need to make their ideas sound complicated. They layer idea upon idea and use big words and long sentences because they think that’s the best way to impress their audience; but the opposite is true. Overly complicated language masks the main idea. And, more likely than not, it’s designed to hide the fact that the author doesn’t truly understand what he or she is trying to express.
When it comes to communication, if you Make It Stunningly Sophisticated, you “miss” the audience. Why? Because the synonyms for “stun” are “bewilder,” “confuse,” “overwhelm,” “dumbfound,” and “paralyze.” A stunning communication style might work well for a used car salesman. However, if you’re trying to clearly express an idea and authentically connect to your audience, you should avoid it.
This applies to personal and professional communication.
How many of us have suffered through complex presentations or reports that left us with more questions than answers? That type of communication causes “friction” for the audience. According to a recent article, “In communication, friction occurs when an audience member is intrigued by a topic, but then encounters resistance on his/her quest to engage with content.”
One of the ways friction can occur is when the content is too difficult to understand. According to Inc.com, “When communication requires too much of a commitment, audience members abandon ship. And here’s the very bad news: Even if audience members are completely interested in the topic–even if they need the information–and even if your content is really awesome, friction can cause failure.”
What’s the solution? Eliminate friction before it occurs.
The next time you’re preparing for a presentation, article, or speech for a broad audience, aim for clarity and simplicity. Use informal language. Define your key terms. Break down the big ideas. And, avoid jargon. The goal shouldn’t be to “sound smart.” It should be to communicate as effectively and efficiently as possible. This means your audience should think, feel, or do exactly what you want them to after it’s over.
It’s okay if the ideas you present are complicated and complex; but the way you explain them should make it effortless for your audience to understand. So, the next time you’re trying to communicate and connect with an audience, try to K.I.S.S. not M.I.S.S. your main idea.
Dr. Alexis Carreiro
Dr. Alexis Carreiro earned her Ph.D. from the University of Texas-Austin in 2010. As a professor, presenter, and public speaker, she has spent more than 15,000 hours sharpening her communication competencies. As The Pitch Prof, she coaches and mentors her clients to help them reach their professional goals.