How to Explain Complex Topics

Every once in a while, a speaker needs to explain a complicated or potentially boring topic, such as financial results in an employee or investor presentation. While you can’t change the topic, you can make adjustments to the way you present the material. The next time you’re faced with a challenging subject, try out these ideas to keep the audience interested and engaged:

Get to the point right away. Don’t take too long to lead up to your point when discussing a difficult topic. Complex material already carries the potential to bore your audience; so you must dive right in early while you have their attention. Make your point, and then draw back to explain certain concepts if necessary.

Keep it short. Your audience probably has a lot to absorb when you’re presenting a complicated subject; so don’t overload them with too much information. You might need to break up your presentation into segments, with breaks in between, in order for people to refresh their minds and get ready to hear new details. Columnist and presenter Andrew Busch successfully takes on such topics as politics and financial markets by keeping things clean and simple.

Use visuals. An image or video goes much farther than words alone when you need to convey dense topics. Visuals can help you demonstrate a concept or show how a product works, giving your audience a more accurate picture of the material you’re presenting.

But don’t let technology take over. Visuals should be considered “assists” for the complicated messages you’re delivering during a presentation – not the focus. You still need to interact with the audience to engage them and draw them into the discussion. Don’t stand on stage and flip through slides: you won’t reap the advantages of using visuals and your audience will be bored to tears.

Pause frequently: With particularly complex topics, the audience will no doubt have questions or need clarification on certain concepts. It’s best to address these before you go onto the next subject to avoid misunderstandings. Plus, the environment is more interactive and gives the audience a chance to get involved with the conversation. When you plan the length of your talk, make sure you allot more time for pausing and answering questions as you go along.

The best presenters have ways to explain complicated material and still maintain their audience’s rapt attention. Do you have some tricks on keeping an audience interested when the topic might be perceived as “boring but necessary”? We would love to hear your tips.

For a complimentary 30-minute consultation on how to build your brand and inspire an audience through events and communications, please contact Brian Duffy by calling 630.427.4235 or by emailing


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