The advice, KISS (keep it simple stupid), needs to be ringing in our ears on a regular basis. We may be immersed in the detail and potential complications. We can foresee a range of different options and possibilities. There may be a myriad of risks we are addressing, but our messaging needs to be as clear and straightforward as possible. This is not about ignoring issues or complications. These have to be addressed and put into a wider context.

Our brain and heart can only take in a limited number of messages at the same time, so it is important to think through the first three key points that need to be made. If there are more than three points there will be diminishing returns. Your hearers may remember two or three points, but if you add numbers four and five, all your points they are likely to get lost in a mishmash of reactions.

Part of keeping it simple might be breaking down what you want to communicate into a number of phases, recognising that people can only absorb one phase at a time.

A test of whether your messages are simple and clear is whether you can remember and articulate them without a detailed page of notes in front of you. You need to be as convincing as if you were in front of a television camera, maintaining good eye contact with the interviewer.

Sustain the audience's interest with confidence. Share what's important with your employees and explain what this means for them. Storytelling for business gives you the opportunity to explore your ‘why’ and build interest in your brand and what you have to offer.

Regularly testing out what you want to say with trusted others can help ensure your messages are clear and simple. Responding to individual questions allows you to go into more detail on points of particular concern.

Heres an example to illustrate this point:

Nigel recognised that his messaging needed to repeat clearly and unequivocally the rationale of the reorganisation and the key features of the timetable. When there was good news on progress he needed to link this visually with the future timetable to help people’s understanding. Nigel applied a maximum length of one page for any messages he sent out, which ensured they were more likely to be read. His insistence was that any message that he or his team issued should include a maximum of three points. Some found this discipline frustrating, but positive engagement scores from both staff and clients showed the benefit of sticking to a maximum of three points in any communication.

In practice

  • Set out standards about what you mean by clarity and simplicity.
  • Be rigorous in limiting the length and the number of points within any communication.
  • Ensure a consistency of approach and standards in communicators by other people in your organisation.
  • Seek feedback on how messages land and when they are deemed to have been over complicated.