Making the complex simple: it sounds like an impossible task, but if you’re involved in online content creation and curation, it’s essential.
In fact, you could say it’s at the core of what we do.
Think of it as a translation service. Just as translators take written or spoken material in one language and make it understandable to someone with little or no knowledge of that language, content creators and curators take complex, wild, opaque ideas and turn them into something readers can understand.
Simple doesn’t mean stupid.
“Simplifying the complex” is sometimes confused with “dumbing it down,” but that’s a misunderstanding.
It’s really the opposite: when you take a complicated idea and break it down so everyone can understand it, you’re “smartening up” the reader. You’re making the opaque clear, and by doing that, you’re giving readers the chance to engage in concepts and techniques they might normally consider out of their league.
Simple starts with knowing your audience.
Before you even think about creating simple content, you need to know one thing: who will be reading what you write, or watching the video you make?
Imagine you’re engaging someone in a conversation. If that person is a 25-year-old college graduate who’s just entering the workforce, your conversation will be quite different from the conversation you might have with a 58-year-old CEO of an established association, right?
So start with your audience in mind. What are their interests, what’s their knowledge base? Where do they hang out? And maybe most important, what can you help them with?
Take some time to jot down answers to these questions, and you’ll have a better idea of who you’re talking to, and why.
Simple means ‘ditch the jargon.’
Jargon is poison to clear communication.
It’s a kind of code, a way of saying “I’m an insider in this field”…so by definition, if you’re using jargon to communicate with non-insiders, you’re telling them the subject matter is beyond their grasp.
Years ago, I was chatting with a friend who was involved in labour negotiations. She casually said something about a “cola clause with a cap on it.” Huh?
It turns out that this was a clever but completely opaque way of describing a “cost of living allowance clause that would be capped at a certain level.”
It made perfect sense to my friend; it made absolutely zero sense to me.
Think of all the “business speak” jargon you routinely use when you’re talking to your peers. Now forget it. When you’re a content creator or curator, you want to avoid things that make zero sense to your audience.
Simple means ‘say only what you need to say.’
When you’re talking about a subject that really grabs you, it can be really tempting to get carried away and start blurting out everything you know, all at once. The juices get flowing, and the words start pouring out, and next thing you know, you’ve lost your audience.
When that happens, they might be too polite to say, “For pity’s sake, slow down and explain it clearly,” but they might suddenly remember another meeting they absolutely must attend. Or they click away from your blog post, and go off in search of someone they can understand.
When you convey your ideas simply, you keep the conversational ball rolling. You respect your audience, and you ensure that they stick around to hear what you have to say.
In other words, you communicate. And when your job is content creation or content curation, we call that a win.