Persuasive Presentations, Part 3: Simplicity

A Plan is Great – but a Framework Allows Shifting on the Fly

To catch up:

We have identified the six elements for any persuasive presentation:  Simplicity, Perception, Incongruity, Confidence, Empathy & Story.   The first one that we’ll pull apart is Simplicity.

Ironically, when I went to translate the content that I developed for my presentation into this blog, this section – on Simplicity – had the most slides.  I think that illustrates our problem perfectly.  Simplicity is not easy to achieve.

Fret not, Dear Reader, we have a solution!

No Magnifying Glasses, Please!

In the 1980’s the US Army adopted the simple summary practice of using what they called a Commander’s Intent statement.  A Commander’s Intent (CI) states a plan’s goal and desired outcome.  It’s as simple as that.  The value of a CI is that is demands the outcome first; the destination is set, the path may vary.  So as you develop your presentation it is important for you to develop a CI.  It’s important to keep your eye on the big picture, but it is a scalable concept; you can develop a CI for each chapter, or even each slide.  That focus on the goals and outcomes will help keep you focused, no matter what gets in your way, so that nothing deters you from your Mission.


Mmmm, Tasty!

Likewise, when applied to a presentation, the CI is a super-concentration of the most important idea a Supersuader wants to convey.  Like a chef reduces a sauce to concentrate the essence of the flavor, the CI places the focus on the Big Idea. The Supersuader never loses their audience to the minutiae of soul-crushing detail.


When you prepare for a presentation ask yourself these questions:



It seems simple enough.  So why isn’t every presentation you attend one that has you falling out of your seat to hear the next line???

Know YOUR Enemy!

Becaue the problem is that when we present on a topic, we have done research, we know things, and we have all of this other, exciting stuff!!!   Surely EVERYONE wants to know the things that we know, right?  Why OF COURSE they do!


We do it to ourselves.  We over-think.  We complicate.  We drape layer upon layer, until the listener no longer has a point of reference about what is important in what’s being presented.  We tend to confuse research and detail with actual content to be conveyed.  We typically spend so much time on the stuff that we’re generating, that we forget what we’re actually trying to communicate.

Therefore, in addition to using a CI – either for each chapter of your content or the presentation as a whole – the solution is to write out all of your content, and then roll up your sleeves, and sharpen the knives.

The thing that is simultaneously the most difficult and most important next step is editing.


The first lesson in editing is that you must be ruthless.  Yes, I know that it’s all stunning and important content, but be honest, Dear Reader….it’s watering down your CI.

Edit Once, Edit Twice, Edit Thrice.

Leave nothing but the bones.


And That’s the Way it is.

Second, follow the lesson taught by journalists.  You remember journalists, right?  Way back when there were things called newspapers, and every word, every line, every space in them cost money.   Journalists had to be stingy with their words, to convey the story in the most efficient but effective means possible.  The story had to grab you in the first three paragraphs.  If the central idea of the article came after that it was called Burying the Lead.  Don’t bury the lead.  Put the central idea up front and then support it with (well edited) anecdotal, and concrete evidence.


Sweet Little 405

Third, use language that makes the ideas understandable, also called making something concrete.  What’s a good example of that, you ask?  Which of these two statements is more concrete?

Statement #1
The project will be a value-added outcome.

Statement #2
The project will increase your profits by 10%.

It’s very clear what the exact benefit of Statement 2 is.  Statement 1 is relative and could change depending on the views of the people involved.


Another way to concretize is to use generative analogies.  Generative analogies are words or phrases already laden with meaning which help to explain something quickly, by association.  Like, “The brain is a computer”.  It quickly conveys a concept by using something simple to explain something more complicated.

Example #1:  at Disney employees are called Cast Members because it quickly conveys the way that they should behave, and interact with visitors, and reminds them that they are always part of a performance, even when perfoming the simplest parts of their job.

Example #2:  Which of these two descriptions make the concept of a pomelo easier to understand?



If you’re anything like I am, you stopped reading Description #1 after the first sentence.  Hopefully that further illustrates how a generative analogy can get you further, faster.  you audience will thank you.



  1. Identify your Big Idea, and be sure that your slides/content answer your Commander’s Intent.
  2. Edit! Edit!! Edit!!!
  3. Use concrete examples to make a specific point that your audience can understand easily &  identify with.
  4. Use generative analogies to convey a concept more easily.




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