Over the past few years, my most consistent blog theme has been the way that inherent human limitations affect business outcomes.  I find it absolutely fascinating.  People come in all sorts of different shapes and sizes (mentally, physically, and emotionally) yet in order for us to do most things that are truly great we have to figure out a way to productively work together.

This week, I’d like to talk about the most fundamental challenge of all collaborative human activity: transporting ideas that live inside your head into the heads of other people.  This one challenge is the bedrock of all social disciplines: education, sales, marketing, operations, etc.  Yet, it can be one of the most challenging.

What follows are three techniques that I’ve been studying.  In combination, I believe they are the most effective way to transport ideas to others.

Simplicity:

When it comes to effective communication, simplicity is paramount.  Explaining a complicated idea to a room of people will, at best, force them to use all of their mental capital just to understand you.  At worst, they will spend days trying to figure out what you said.  The best way to transport your ideas to other people is to break them down into increments of elegant simplicity – such that anyone can understand.  If you allow your audience to easily understand your words, they will have plenty of mental horsepower left when it comes time to discussion and building upon your ideas.

If complexity is a must, try delivering a simple message first.  Start to address the intricacies once you’ve built a stable foundation of understanding.

Repetition:

Have you ever heard a politician talk? They pretty much say the same thing over and over again.  It can be comical at times.  There’s a reason they do this though – it’s because repetition is the key to spreading your message.

It’s not only important to repeat the same message, but it’s crucially important to repeat the same exact words.  An idea expressed 10 different ways will stay muddled in the minds of your immediate audience; an idea that becomes a catch phrase will travel like chain lightning.

Analogies:

Analogies are truly one of my favorite things.  They exploit our brains’ natural bias toward visceral, immersive experiences, they provide memory “hooks” and make ideas easy to remember, and they can be imaginative and fun.  However, the real reason why I love analogy so much is because, in many ways, it’s the opposite of explaining something new.  The beauty of analogy is that it allows you to show people they already know what you’re talking about.

What’s your view?  What did I leave out?

The Key to Having Your Message Heard: Simplicity, Repetition, and Analogies
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  • Eife, one thing you omitted that I find effective is the use of humor.  I find that if you can make the situation interesting / humorous / noteworthy, people are more likely to recall what you were talking about at a later time.  This is especially powerful when paired with analogies.  Humorous anecdotes that serve as analogies for complex ideas always seem to work for me.