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To be understood, be concrete

For an audience to agree with your remarks, it is essential that it gets a quick mental picture of your idea. For this purpose it is imperative to be concrete. Too often, speakers, wanting to show that they have mastered their subject, wrongly develop complex concepts that only delay the moment when the listener understands what they are getting at. The more you master your subject the more you’ll be able to make it simple and short. Here are two tips to remember what your audience needs to hear:

Quantities

After a certain range of magnitude, the brain can no longer concretely represent the value you are talking about. If you want your audience to show empathy, you’ve got to develop a specific case before discussing quantities. In training we summarize this point as follows: “a million deaths is a statistic, one death is a tragedy.”

Proportions

It is rare to see a presentation without a statistic or percentage used to construct an argument. However, it is important to remember that the brain grasps frequencies much easier than proportions. So saying “1 success out of 3” is more concrete than “33% success.” The same applies to quantities: talking about “380,000 burglaries per year” is much less effective than saying “two burglaries every 3 minutes.”