When I shipped off to college I was pretty clueless about money. I didn’t know how to make a budget, or even what kind of expenses to plan for, so I pretty much lived paycheck to paycheck, never really saving anything. It was hard for me to conceive of paying for a computer in cash, let alone a car, or fancy vacation, or wedding, or mortgage. As I got nearer and nearer to graduation and the prospect of life in the real world any thoughts about finance filled me with trepidation.
It was during this time that my parents took a class called Financial Peace University taught by a guru named Dave Ramsey. They came away singing its praises and telling me that I HAD to take the class, too. Not long after I found myself in the thirteen week class watching videos of Dave on stage teaching the basics of budgeting, insurance, and investing. I was incredibly thankful for the knowledge that Dave was imparting in each of his lectures, information that seemed quite basic. Always make a budget. Live on less than you make. Have an emergency fund. Really simple in hindsight, but eye-opening to someone who hadn’t heard it before.
One of the things that was most helpful to me was Dave’s “baby steps” to financial peace. An Al-Anon twelve-step-program for the fiscally challenged, the baby steps took the process of getting out of debt, establishing an emergency fund, and beginning to build wealth out of the ether and made it easy to grasp. Made it bite-sized. Now, for the first time, I could see exactly where I was going and what I needed to do to get there.
I wasn’t alone in my financial ignorance as the millions upon millions of other Dave Ramsey disciples attest. But financial gurus had been around forever and the information Dave was presenting wasn’t anything new. So why was Dave so successful selling such ancient information?
The answer is simplicity. Dave’s message alone isn’t what makes him so popular. It’s his presentation of that message.
Before Dave, no one took the time to explain the basics of finance to the layperson. In order to learn the secrets of handling money, you had to find someone who knew the secrets already and convince them to share them with you. But Dave took those precious secrets and distilled them into rules and patterns anyone could follow. He broke his information down into actionable steps. His audiences left the room knowing exactly what they needed to do.
There’s a huge lesson here for ANYONE giving a presentation. It’s important to have good information; rock solid advice or evidence. But if you can’t explain that information in a way that makes it easy for your audience to understand what they need to do with it, you might as well not get up to speak in the first place. Find the essence of your information and then share it with your audience. Don’t hold it back or disguise it by being subtle or cryptic.
It’s not easy to achieve this kind of simplicity. It takes time to get to the root of an idea. That’s why no one did it before Dave. It’s something I’m sure Dave worked and worked to refine over time. But it’s obvious now that that extra effort was well worth it.
In the end, every second you spend making your message clear and actionable is time well spent. And if you choose to skip out on simplification, it can mean the difference between the failure or success of your ideas.
Dave’s lesson in a word: Simplicity.
This week I’m doing a series of posts I’m calling “Build Slides Like…” Each day I’ll share a new idea about presenting taken from an inspiring creative type (non-presenters). Today’s inspiration is (obviously) Dave Ramsey. Yesterday it was Duff Goldman. Subscribe to this blog via RSS or email or come back each day to find out who else I’ll be featuring.
[image credit: DaveRamsey.com]