Restraint, Simplicity and Naturalness
One of the main themes in Garr Reynolds’ book Presentation Zen, are the concepts of restraint, simplicity and naturalness. Garr does a great job in his book to explain these concepts and I want to try and explain how we can use these concepts when we present in English as a second language.
Essentially, this means holding back. Keeping your slides and words to their core meaning and not using too much, whether that is a slide with too much information, or a presenter who is rambling with too many words, when fewer words and slides with less information are used, you message becomes clearer and your audience’s understanding is greater.
Sadly, in today’s business world, the pressure to pack in as much information as possible is high, and we often try to use far too much information, whether that is too much text on a slide or too many words spoken. We need to ‘restrain’ ourselves and use less. When presenting, less really does mean more.
This concept can really help us when presenting in a foreign language. It means we do not need to worry too much about how many English words we use, we just need to focus on the words that really matter. When we isolate the words that really matter, we can then ensure that these are incorporated into our slides to help the effectiveness of our presentation.
Above, you can see that the same message can be given by using less words, and by doing so you can create a more powerful slide.
Simplicity does not mean simple – as in a lack of intelligence. It means simple to understand. One of the biggest mistakes presenters make is they quite often assume that their audience has the same level of intelligence as they do, that they understand everything the presenter does. This is not true. A presenter must remember that there will quite likely be a number of people in their audience who do not understand the technicalities of the topic.
A good way to manage this is to prepare your presentation as if you were preparing to give your message to your grandmother. If your grandmother can understand your message then your audience will. (unless you grandmother was a nuclear physicist – use your judgment)
The same applies to your slides. Do not over complicate them.
The slide on the left is much more complicated than the slide on the right. WHile the left slide does have a strong meaning, the one on the right is ‘cleaner’ and ‘simpler’
The language you use is also important. Simple words and short simple sentences have a clearer message than long sentences and long words. Trying to show off your level of English is a pointless exercise. You over-complicate your message and many in your audience (who also may be non-English speakers) will not understand. Aim your level of language to a person with an intermediate standard of English and remember to speak slowly.
Be natural in your delivery. This means be yourself and do not try to be something you are not.
When we deliver a presentation, it is important to be natural. If we read our slides we lose naturalness, we sound robotic and we lose character and personality. It is so important for you to actually learn your presentation in a way that you deliver your presentation naturally. Reading and reading and reading your presentation and learning it by heart will lose its emotional value. You need to learn it in a way that preserves its naturalness. For me the way to do this is to learn notes, not sentences. Learning notes means that I use the link words like “and”, “then”, “but” etc, naturally. And that is the way for any non-native English speaker should be learning their presentation.
For more information on the concepts of restraint, simplicity and naturalness, I highly recommend you buy a copy of Presentation Zen. THe book is available in many languages, so I am sure you will find a copy in your native language.