I've recently noticed two distinct paths a thought leader or expert takes to communicate with their audience. One is a commanding point of view that showcases the person's knowledge, and the other addresses their community's needs and desires.
One uses the word "I" a lot. The other uses the word "We."
One uses loads of big words and complicated theories. The other tells a simple story that, while less cerebral, is profound in its empathy.
Overcomplicating an idea does little to solidify its resonance or veracity. In fact, it can be kind of a turn off.
Simple is the way, so why do we avoid it?
It may have to do with insecurity or the fact that most experts haven't mastered the concepts they're attempting to explain. I could be wrong.
Maybe it's because as we get even more inundated with information, it becomes harder to tamp down the noise and find the essence. Two quotes perfectly capture where I'm going with this.
To quote Einstein: 'If you can't explain it to a six-year-old, you probably don't understand it yourself.'
Simplicity is where you can find the genius of your idea.
If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter. – Blaise Pascal
Edit. Edit Edit. Not everything is essential. It takes more work to distill a thought down to its essence, but constraints breed creativity, right?
The world of virtual content consumption is overcrowded and relentless. Distinguishing oneself in such a packed arena requires a "less is more" approach. Consider that you have three seconds to capture someone's attention and another ten to hold it.
Get to the point.
David Shenk, the author of the 1997 book, Data Smog, was one of the first to identify the problem of information overload, explore it in detail, and propose some possible solutions.
He noted almost 25 years ago that the virtual world seems to create thought-leaders out of thin air. And so the work of discernment falls upon the audience. He proposed that it's up to us to decide whether this so-called expert has something new and bold to share or whether it's “all fur coat and no knickers,” to quote an English friend of mine.
It wasn't easy back then. It's even more challenging today.
So, to help an audience find you, appreciate you, and trust you, try some of these tactics that thought leaders employ.
Remember: the most successful communicators hone in on exactly what their clearly defined audience needs. They make complex ideas simple. They know that more makes the message cloudy.
Clarity requires restraint, and what is left out is as important as what remains.