Almost anyone can juggle two balls. Many can do three. Four is rather difficult. More is impossible for most.
Juggling thoughts by keeping several things in mind at the same time is quite similar … Two? That’s easy. Three? Still easy. Four is more difficult, and then it quickly gets really difficult. The more complex the things you have to keep in mind, the more difficult it is to keep multiple things in your mind.
Of course, that’s also true for your audience. If we juggle too many balls in a speech, it will be difficult for our audience to keep track. Sooner or later they will drop a ball … and while they’re still busy picking it up again, the next thought balls are already falling to the floor.
Unfortunately, most topics – especially those worthy of being the subject of a presentation – are rather complex. Usually, three balls just won’t get the job done.
Fortunately, though, thoughts have a property that physical balls don’t have. Thoughts can combine to form larger thoughts. Thoughts can trigger other thoughts.
Apples, pears, and bananas become fruit. Fruits, vegetables and grains become vegetarian food. Vegetarian diet has effects that you first illustrate through a story and then abstract to derive a specific dietary recommendation.
Yet, at any given time, we kept a maximum of four thoughts in the air so that everyone could follow along effortlessly.
Complex in nature, yet simple in narrative.
With a clear story and a great structure, we can get extremely complex things into the minds of the audience. We just have to make sure to build the complexity step-by-step.