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How to explain complex things

I can explain.

Abstract concepts like Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence or an APK file, can be difficult to communicate to stakeholders. And let’s be honest, we can be very lazy. It takes effort to figure out the best way to explain something complicated and intangible.

So we spout jargon, which is verbal camouflage. We hide behind a wall of big words to avoid the mentally arduous job of helping another person grasp what an innovative concept is or does. Plus, convoluted words have the added benefit of making us smart.

But our success as agency people depends on our ability to sell complex and novel concepts.

Analogy is our friend here. Find common ground, similarities between what you’re trying to explain and an idea your audience are familiar with — it could be industry-niche or general knowledge. Here are a few examples:

  • Think of Blockchain as an online logbook; identical copies of the book are owned by numerous people and any change in one book is reflected in all of them.
  • When a computer program autonomously does stuff the way humans do, that’s Artificial Intelligence.
  • An APK file is like a Windows EXE file. It installs an app on your smartphone.

Do you know how writers pitched the horror sci-fi “Alien” to producers? They called it “Jaws in space.” Hundreds of pages of screenplay, the entire vision of the film, explained in three words. Let’s stop “techsplaining” and start communicating.

Concise writing, precise thinking, zero waffling. I’m a Creative Innovation guy at Ogilvy London. Writing on tech, creativity and faith.