Simplify, simplify

images Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify, simplify! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb-nail.

Recently I’ve had a couple of interesting experiences simplifying technical topics for lay audiences. One for trial testimony and the other for a TED-style talk that I’m giving in a couple of weeks. Both require me to explain myself to an audience that lacks even the most basic understanding of soil mechanics.

The whole purpose of making presentations is for people to understand your point. But when you lack a common frame of reference, it falls to the presenter to adjust and create one.

Testimony this afternoon went well enough; I could tell that the jury was understanding what I was trying to explain. Apparently I succeeded in not frittering their afternoon away on detail. That’s mainly because I made only 2 or 3 points, not a hundred or a thousand.  I think that Mr. Thoreau’s advice is exactly right.

I’m hopeful that by the time my next talk comes up, with another lay audience even less informed about my topic, that I’ll be able to simplify all of the thousands of affairs that affect municipal infrastructure down to 2 or 3, and fit the point of my presentation on my thumbnail.