If you want people’s cooperation – if you want them to say yes – you need to make them understand what you want them to do and how it affects them. Being clear won’t always win people’s hearts and minds. It may actually galvanize people’s resistance, but it gives you the best chance for winning them over. When you confuse people, you lose all hope of gaining their cooperation.
The best ways to confuse people during any type of presentation are to:
Overwhelm them with too much information
Give them too many options
Say too much
Use visual aids (like PowerPoint) poorly
Speak in abstractions
Here’s what to do instead:
Show people the larger picture
Use a story or a metaphor – something they can visualize in their imaginations – as a framework to help them see how things fit together.
Keep it short and simple
Present your material in bite-size pieces. Give them a little information and stop talking. If they want to know more, they’ll ask questions.
Tell people what you’re going to tell them
In your introduction, explicitly tell people what you’re talking about. Give them an overview of your talk, your main points, and your structure.
Show people how to use your material
What do you want people to do with what you’re telling them? How can they do that? How will doing that improve their lives?
Help people make a choice
Give them two or three options – no more. Then help them make a choice based on their values and understanding.
Tell people what you want them to do
If you want them to support your position, buy your service or product, approve your budget or proposal, then tell them.
Keep it conversational
Speak like you’re talking to friends or colleagues. Don’t try to impress people by using big words or jargon. Say “I” and “you” and “we.”
Being clear isn’t everything and, in itself, won’t guarantee that you’ll gain people’s interest, agreement, and cooperation. But confusing people will, without fail, shut them down. If you want to get things done, and if getting things done depends on other people’s involvement, be clear. Confucius said it another way: “If speech is not clear, then what is said is not what is meant. If what is said is not what is meant, then what ought to be done remains undone.”