Charles Mingus – Jazz legend or presentation guru?

Thursday, June 24th, 2010 by Simon Morton

The late great Charles Mingus was not just an amazing jazz musician (cue obligatory finger click), he was also a wise man.

“Anyone can make the simple complicated. Creativity is making the complicated simple”

Charles Mingus

We could leave this blog there – this single line sums up our approach to building slides rather nicely.  However, let’s embellish this idea slightly:

When you are putting together a slide within a presentation (having done a storyboard first naturally…) think about how you can best get across the information to your audience and invariably the best way is the simplest way.

Take for example trying to describe the offside rule in football (who says we’re not topical). There are many, many ways to describe this rule particularly taking into account some of the changes over the years but in essence it boils down to 3 key things happening:

  1. To be offside a player must be in the opposition’s half
  2. There must be fewer than 2 people from the other team between the player and the goal
  3. The person must be in front of the ball to be offside

We’re naturally ignoring passive, active and all that for the purposes of this demonstration, but how best could you describe this with a PowerPoint slide(s)?

Offside rule

It could be that you simply list those 3 points although people will read it before you can talk through it – but simplest would probably be 3 simple pictures demonstrating those 3 actions.  On the other hand, there are at least 100 ways (and we’ve counted them) that you could describe this and leave even the most ardent football fan bemused.

But back to our man Mingus and his visionary quote.

It’s interesting to note that Mingus was a pioneer of his craft and his example parallels nicely with presenting. If you present complicated areas simply and get people to understand them (without being condescending) then you have created a powerful connection.

Don’t waste your opportunity to make a connection by over-complicating your message.

For those of you who like a challenge then do send in your best PowerPoint interpretation of the offside rule – the best one gets some a PowerPoint Amnesty Action Pack!

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One Response to “Charles Mingus – Jazz legend or presentation guru?”

  1. […] In music, it’s often as much about which notes you take out as what you leave in – too many notes just creates a noise.  Much the same goes for presentations – too much “freeform content” will detract from the message. To quote Charles Mingus: […]

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