Less is more; simple is best

This article is the fifth in a series. It was first published on July 1st 2020, via LinkedIn.

In my last article, I mentioned that there are three key principles to apply in order to make your report or presentation as impactful as possible. In this article I’ll describe the second of these principles.

Principle #2 – Less is more; simple is best

It’s easy to overload your document with too much content, especially text. After all, you’ve got a lot to say and surely your audience would benefit from exposure to every last bit of knowledge you have on a topic…right?

WRONG!

In an age when we’re bombarded with unprecedented amounts of information, it’s never been more important to make your message simple and concise. If your report or presentation is built around elegant simplicity, you’ll find it easier to stand out from the crowd.

There’s only so much information that can be ‘ingested’ at one time. Here are some simple tips to help you avoid information overload:

  • For each page, think 1/3 text, 1/3 image or graphic and 1/3 blank space (especially for presentation slides).
  • Blank space is important. The eye needs somewhere to rest.
  • Remember that we process words and pictures differently. Use images and graphics to convey information wherever possible. It’s a much more efficient method of communicating.
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Pictures => instantaneous, involuntary, effortless, high impact, emotional response.

Words => slow (200 words per minute), voluntary, effort required, low impact, limited emotional response.

“Think of each page as a billboard; it should be comprehensible in 3 seconds.”

For written components, make them easy to read. Focus on keeping your text:

  • Short – words, sentences (aim for <15 words), paragraphs.
  • Active – use active language, strong verbs.
  • Uncluttered – no fluff, no unnecessary words, every word has a purpose.

If you’re able to apply these tips you’ll avoid having too many elements competing for the reader’s attention. Failure can make the document hard to follow; i.e. make it too much work to read. If you get it right, your audience will thank you. You’ll be surprised by the contribution this will make to receiving more positive feedback and achieving better outcomes.

Note: This article is the fifth in a series. Links to earlier articles are included below:

 

Author: Steven Macek

I learnt a long time ago that in order to grow it is necessary to step outside one’s comfort zone. As a person who craves growth and change this has led me to continually seek out opportunities to make myself uncomfortable, whether physically, emotionally or psychologically. The (Dis)Comfort Zone blog is a vehicle for cataloging those experiences.

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