The Dying Art of Talking Simple

2 min read · Posted on: Mar 4, 2010 · Print this page

I am reading an excellent book called Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds. The book arrived in Mangalore library last week thanks to our wonderful librarian :). The book is a feast for the eyes with its stunning images and beautiful typesetting.

I read a very interesting passage from the book about the need for clarity of communications. The book says:

Look at these two messages that address the same idea. One of them should seem very familiar to you.

a. “Our mission is to become the international leader in the space industry through maximum team-centered innovation and strategically targeted aerospace initiatives."


b. ”…put a man on the moon and return him safely by the end of the decade."

The first message sounds similar to CEO-speak of today and is barely comprehensible, let alone memorable. The second message – which is actually from a 1961 speech by JFK – has every element of SUCCESs and it motivated a nation toward a specific goal that changed the world. JFK, or at least his speech writers, knew that abstractions are not memorable, nor do they motivate.

There are many examples where I have read 2 to 3 page/screen emails without understanding a word of what they are trying to say. Communication has deteriorated to the point that we are now extremely thankful when someone can explain the gist of the message in a few words.

The worst thing that can happen is the spread of this culture of obfuscation to the next generation. If that happens, we will lose the art of communicating ideas simply and the real message will be drowned in the noise.

PS: Recently I delivered a talk on Relevance of IT in Business and used Presentation Zen ideas in my slides. The slides were well received and appeared on Slideshare homepage as well.

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Arun Ravindran

Arun is the author of "Django Design Patterns and Best Practices". Works as a Product Manager at Google. Avid open source enthusiast. Keen on Python. Loves to help people learn technology. Find out more about Arun on the about page.

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