Make your presentation understandable

Avoid Audience Overwhelm: How to make your presentation understandable

It is easy to fall into the trap of believing that you have to share all the detail on a subject to make your presentation understandable. Its natural! We want to deliver all of the relevant information – allowing our audiences to make a decision with all the facts and information available. We make our audiences feel that they have attempted to take a drink from a fire hydrant.

The intent is great. The result is not.

Audience members become overwhelmed by a mass of information and they are unable to decipher what is important and what is irrelevant for them to make a decision.

Your role as a public speaker

Your audience is looking to you as a speaker to filter the detail for them. An audience expects you to consider their current understanding on the topic of your presentation and then identify what is the relevant information they need to hear and understand.

The most important step I help clients with is to work through who their audience is and what level information they need to hear and understand during the presentation. This is vital as everyone has different motivations that will influence him or her to take a decision. Consider a CEO, they have different goals/motivations to someone in middle management. As a result, as a presenter, you need to tailor the information presented to align to their understanding and interests.

Use an appropriate structure

Regardless of the subject of your presentation you need to ensure that your audience understands your presentation. When you use a proven structure you provide your audience the opportunity to grasp your message and understand the ideas you are sharing with them.

This is important. Compare a presentation with a written report. If a reader does not understand something you have written they can re-read the document. Listening to a presentation they have one chance to understand what you are saying – you deliver the words and move on to the next idea.

Using a proven speech structure allows you to share your ideas and your message in a way that maximises the opportunity for your audience to understand and digest the message of your presentation.

Reinforce your key points

Every presentation has one or more key ideas that the presenter wants the audience to understand. The last point of using an appropriate structure provides the foundation for success. To take it to the next level you need to reinforce the key ideas you want your audience to understand. Often this requires you to provide evidence or material to support what you are saying to your audience. There are several ways that you can provide the evidence and support required for your audience to understand your key ideas. Stories, quotes or statistics, and analogies can be leveraged to help your ideas get understood and become memorable.

Leverage Language tools

Sometimes the ideas and concepts that need to be covered in a presentation are complex. There is nothing wrong with complexity. However your job as a presenter is to follow the words of Albert Einstein “Everything should be made as simple as possible, and not simpler”.

It is your responsibility to take any complex ideas that you need to cover in your presentation and make them as simple as they can be.


Look to leverage some of the tools we have available in the English language. From metaphors, where you provide a comparison between something complex with something well known to the audience, through to analogies make large or abstract numbers relatable.

Steve Jobs was a master of utilising analogies to explain the features of the latest Apple products. For example, when launching the iPod rather than saying it had 30Gb of disk. He realised that would mean nothing to most people. He described it as having the capability to hold 7500 songs in your pocket. By translating 30Gb to 7500 songs he took an abstract number and concept and made it understandable to everybody.


When an audience is overloaded with detail and information they are unable to determine what information they need to understand. As a result they will walk away from your presentation confused and frustrated, and you will not get the outcome that you want. However if you remember what your role is when preparing and delivering the presentation, select the right structure, reinforce your key points, and keep concepts understandable you will avoid a situation where your audience feels that they are drinking from a fire hydrant.


About The Author

Mark Kyte

Mark Kyte is a public speaking mentor and founder of the Public Speaking Skills Academy. Mark loves helping clients achieve dynamic results that help them increase their influence and get more clients. Read more of his blog and if you like what you see check out the mentoring programs.