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Keep It Simple


Techniques Public speaking > Speaking Tips > Keep It Simple

Description | Example | Discussion | See also



When presenting, keep things as simple as possible. This should start when you are preparing, of course.

When you are speaking, use plain language and avoid jargon unless you are speaking to a room full of people who will understand and appreciate it. Using storytelling can also help, as it is a format that is easy to understand.

Also avoid extra words that can reduce the value of what you say. Avoid:

  • Uncertain phrases like 'I guess', 'sort of', 'probably.
  • Tags that add no value such as 'know what I mean' and 'you see'.
  • Pet words and phrases like 'if you ask me', 'clearly' and 'significant'.
  • Excessive repetition for emphasis.
  • Other floppy language.

If you are using slides, minimize the text and keep the diagrams clean and clear. You can also use such as physical props to elucidate idea.


I am presenting on educational methods to a group of parents. I avoid the jargon of the curriculum and talk about how we used to be taught and the problems. I show a good teacher engaging children. I explain the demands of the future and how we are building tomorrow's citizens. I tell a story about one child and one subject and how it helps them get a job in ten years time.


A common admonition in communication is the 'KISS Principle', where KISS variously means 'Keep It Simple, Stupid!' or the more polite 'Keep it Short and Simple'. The underlying principle is the same -- making your communication easy to understand.

Sometimes presenters want to impress their audiences and do so by using complex language and slides. Whilst this may indeed lead their audience to marvel at their intelligence, it will not educate them well and is rather likely to send them away mystified. It takes a certain humility and often more effort to keep things simple.

Einstein said 'A thing should be as simple as problem, but no simpler.' Simplification need not be the same as dumbing down. Good presenters are able to explain even complex ideas without leaving their audiences behind. One way of doing this is through the careful use of metaphor.

See also

Metaphor, Floppy language


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