Home » Empower Your Audience with Simplicity & a Touch of Occam’s Razor

Perhaps now more than ever, simplicity is critical. We’re bombarded with information, and cutting through the noise is trickier than ever. Presentations are an inevitable casualty – they seem to be the natural home of too much content. All of this despite the Presentations 101 rule that states that the simpler the presentation, the easier it is for the audience to understand the message and subsequently take action.

It may be of some comfort to learn that fighting complexity is not a new phenomenon. In fact, our 14th Century ancestors were battling the same challenges (although PowerPoint and Google Slides probably weren’t part of the mix). Occam’s razor, a principle attributed to the 14th-century logician and Franciscan friar William of Ockham, states that when presented with competing explanations for a phenomenon, one should select the simplest explanation that is still consistent with the available evidence.

In short, the simplest explanation or story is often the most effective – simplicity is NOT stupidity.


So, by following the principle of Occam’s razor, presenters can (and should!) cut out any unnecessary information, streamline their message, and ensure that their audience understands and remembers the key points of the presentation.

OK, Why Is This Important?

In the spirit of simplicity, let’s go back to basics. A simple story helps the audience remember the presentation long after you’ve stepped off stage or closed down Teams. The same goes for visuals – make them easy to understand, recollect and share. Simplicity gives your message both staying-power and gravitas – who wouldn’t want that in their presentation?

But perhaps most importantly, simplicity gives your audience power:

  • Power to easily engage without breaking a sweat. We humans have a tendency to give up when things get complex. You don’t want your audience to fight to keep up – the simpler, the better.
  • Power to share your message succinctly and accurately with colleagues who couldn’t attend your presentation (never underestimate the part played by ‘hidden stakeholders’).
  • Power to take action (something we’re rather passionate about). After all, what’s the point of presenting if your audience doesn’t actually do something or think differently after the event?

In conclusion, simplicity underpins effective presentations by empowering your audience to do the right thing. Yes, it will require more work from you when creating your next presentation – applying Occam’s Razor is not always, um, simple – but the end result is worth the extra effort.

Still not convinced? If you judge the success of your presentation on results rather than how many complex, highly animated slides you created in preparation, you’ll know it’s the right thing to do.

Further Reading

Occam’s Razor – An Ingredient in The Presentation Lab:

Learn Simplicity – The Presentation Campus:

Decipher Your Audience – The Audience Heatmap:


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