Simplifying Complex Ideas In Presentations

chalkboard with e=mc2 equation and other algorithms

The complexity in delivering your complex idea is not the complexity of your idea itself, but the complexity in the way in which you choose to deliver it.

Sorry, what?!

Yeah, jumping straight into complex things is confusing isn’t it? In fact, knowing how to deliver complex ideas or thoughts during a presentation is an artform. Adjusting your content to reflect the knowledge level (or indeed the interest level!) of your audience, breaking down big ideas into easy-to-understand chunks, and using analogies and metaphors are just some of the ways that you can leave your audience saying “I get it!”, instead of “get me out of here!”.

Sell the problem before the solution

In order to create value in your idea, you have to identify why you’re sharing your idea in the first place. Another way of saying this is to sell the ‘why’ to justify the ‘what’.

Think of it as problem solving. You can’t deliver a solution without knowing the problem, right?

The more that people understand the problem, the more value they are likely to place in your solution. While you’re explaining the ‘why’, use concrete case studies, data or even anecdotes to substantiate your rationale. This will enhance the credibility of your idea and lead to a more engaged audience during your presentation.

Make it bite-sized

Having sold the ‘why’ think about delivering your idea in bite-sized chunks. Pacing your audience in this way ensures that they’re able to understand your idea one step at a time and can ask questions along the way without you getting too far ahead.  

To do this, consider chunking up your idea to answer:

  • What – what the idea is
  • How – how it will work/be implemented
  • Who – who will be involved, who will it affect
  • When – when will it/should it happen

Doing this makes it easier for your audience to comprehend the foundations of your idea, which in turn helps them to see the bigger picture.

Use analogies and metaphors

Complex ideas often call for an easy bridging example that your audience finds relatable and which conveys your concept, but without bogging them down in detail. Analogies and metaphors are a perfect way to do this.

For example, let’s take quantum physics and how it’s really just like a grape…just kidding. Let’s look at something a tad more digestible, and relevant, to business. There’s a sales technique called “pushing the bruise”. Pushing the bruise is a metaphor for bringing a prospect’s pain points to mind so that you can solve them with your product/service.

Consider a bruise and how it reacts to touch. If left alone, it just looks ugly, it doesn’t actually hurt. If you push it though, you’ll get a sharp pain which of course draws your attention to it. Once you relieve that pressure, the pain dissipates quickly and your attention is drawn away from it.

So, bring the problem/pain point to front of mind (push the bruise), then solve that problem (stop pushing the bruise). Easy!

Analogies and metaphors are not only a great way of wrapping up and explaining an idea or concept, they are also a magic way of making them memorable.  

Feature Function Benefit

Every salesperson has heard this one before, and that’s because it’s a logical and effective way of presenting the USPs of a product or service to a prospect.

If you’ve never heard of feature, function, benefit (FFB) then here’s a quick recap:

What is it?Example (A Jug)
FeatureA salient characteristic of the product or service.The spout.
FunctionWhat does that feature do for that product or service?It allows the contents to be easily poured from the jug.
BenefitWhy is that feature beneficial to the prospect?It fills your glass without creating a mess.


This is a methodical way of delivering the chunks of your complex idea. It allows your audience to fully understand the component parts, along with their relevance and benefit to your main idea. It sounds simple, and it is, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s not worth doing.

Make it visual

Most people are visual learners so try to use images during your presentation to help you to explain complex ideas. In the context of complex ideas, consider how much easier it is to show this diagram of how an engine works, as opposed to explaining it without visual aids.

How a 4 stroke engine works

Image credit.

It’s important to pick the right images though. Heavily detailed images are distracting and difficult to interpret during presentations. For example, here’s another example of how an engine works:

engine-01

Image credit.

It’s not that the information is wrong, it’s just that there’s far too much detail for one image. The first one is clear, concise and suitable for a presentation.

Check-in regularly

By delivering your complex idea in smaller chunks, you’re able to check-in with your audience after each chunk to make sure they’re still with you. This could be by simply asking “Does everyone understand?” Or “Would anyone like me to run through that section again?”

Encouraging questions and participation is a terrific way of monitoring people’s comprehension and buy-in to your idea as well as maintaining their attention and engagement.

Delivering complex ideas simply

Presenting complex ideas, theories or solutions doesn’t have to be as complicated as that idea is. Following the above tips will help you to engage your audience and ensure that your idea is firmly planted within them, getting you much closer to your goal.
Get in touch with secondnature to hone your business presentation skills and deliver presentations that connect, engage and inspire your audience!

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