Are you a programmer, engineer, scientist, or have an otherwise technical job that 95% of people don’t understand?
Do people’s eyes glaze over when you talk about your newest idea or project?
Doing this can lead to people distrusting your ideas and impeding your career growth. It creates distance between you and your peers/customers. Plus, people just generally stop listening to you.
I speak from personal experience on this. As a guy with a Computer Science and Economics degree, I’m prone to bombarding people with unnecessary technical details.
There is a very easy and effective way around this bad habit, though.
It doesn’t come from a psychologist or a public speaking coach. It comes from Michelin star-winning chef Daniel Patterson.
The Simple Genius of a Bowl of Grits
Chef Patterson was on an episode of PBS’s The Mind of a Chef explaining how to make his delicious buttered popcorn grits. For such a simple sounding dish, it was surprisingly labor-intensive.
He acknowledged this and said these golden words:
My goal is to bury the technique, to make food that looks like any monkey can make it…the focus should be on the food, not the cook.”
Go back and read that a few more times.
I’ve made this dish and found that it takes about 20 minutes to make a simple bowl of grits. But, you’d never know it. Its simplicity is disarming.
And, that’s precisely what you should be gunning for when you talk about, demonstrate, and sell your complex ideas..
Bury the techniques & processes you used to create it and focus on the incredible results your idea creates.
When you’re talking about your ideas to the people who matter – your boss, your client, a potential customer – most of them don’t care how you built it. They just care how it helps them. You’re selling value to them.
The Crocodile & The Investment Banker
From a practical perspective, these people are busy and don’t have the patience to listen to someone prattle on about the details. When you’re busy, you can’t be bothered with things that don’t directly help you
Now, this reaction isn’t because your CEO or customer is rude and just an all-around royal asshole. I mean, he might also be an asshole but this reaction is mostly the fault of how the human brain works.
The core of our brain is lovingly called the “Crocodile Brain” because it handles our most basic, primal impulses (breathing, eating, sleeping, fighting, fucking). It keeps us alive and functioning.
It also filters any information that hits your brain.
If the information is simple and novel (helps you survive), your Crocodile Brain loves it and acts on it. If it’s boring or hard to figure out (your detailed presentation), it gets pissed and ignores it.
In the words of investment banker Oren Klaff, author of Pitch Anything, an excellent book on the neurology of selling, pitching, and persuasion:
The Crocodile Brain wants things fast. It wants things summarized. It wants things high contrast, very binary. “Safe. Not Safe. Good. Evil. Fun. Not Fun. Hot. Not Hot”…Fast information, visual, in a narrative format.”
This is exactly why people get frustrated and distracted by overly technical, detailed presentations that go nowhere quickly.
Your idea could very well be fantastic and make your client millions of dollars – just make sure you cut the bullshit and very directly speak to the points that will either make them money or keep them out of trouble.