Sometimes it is painfully obvious that too many people have worked on a product, everyone needs to have their say. It feels cluttered, wordy and over-complete. That’s the case because it is just too easy to add. We see something new that might work too, and we’re adding it. What is much harder however, it is to remove. Because you don’t want to leave anything out, make it feel incomplete; everything seems important. And this is especially troublesome if you’re working in a team. You don’t want to upset people by removing any of their ideas. So people keep adding and adding and now you have a junk drawer of ideas. We all have one of those drawers at home, filled with stuff we might need, someday. So, it is no surprise that we’re creating the opposite of what we’re really trying to achieve. All you are doing is make noise and now it’s getting really hard to make out what it was all about in the first place. Your team is happy, but you just lost your audience.
Sometimes we just need to open our junk drawer and ask ourselves, is this for my audience or is this for me?
You need to have someone like Mary Kondo on the team, to help you simplify. Simplicity does not mean to take away or make it shorter; it is not the same as minimalism; simplicity is not found in the amount of the content – Simplicity is more in relation to time. The time it takes for your audience to understand what you’re trying to say. For example, an abbreviation actually adds more complexity because it might take the audience a while to decipher. Shorter? Yes. Simple? Perhaps – if the abbreviation is used a lot and has been made very clear to the reader. In that case it will bring more simplicity because we get it and now we can focus on other things. Yes, in a way, simplicity is very complex.
Those ideas you came up with that once worked really well for that one presentation. I know you love those ideas, but do they still work? I’m sure you’ve kept those slides in your deck, but it has run its course. In my work I help speakers with their stories and visuals, and a big portion of what I do is discovering the non-essential so it can be removed. When you are the expert and you are trying to present to an audience, you need to know that there is a distance between you: a knowledge-gap. You need to figure out how big of a distance this gap is so you can work your way back and actually build a story that resonates with your audience. I’ve seen so many decks that contained people’s entire junk drawer, and they start calling it ‘their master deck’. But it’s mostly your archive combined with even more current slides. What this creates is a presentation that is all about you. Sometimes we just need to open our junk drawer and ask ourselves, is this slide for my audience, or is this slide for me? And if Mary Kondo was helping you with your presentation: Does this slide spark joy in my audience?