Saying Things Simply

This post is a little experiment. If you look at the attached presentation, do you come away with a clear idea of what we are asking/offering? Can you suggest any improvements? Please click on the link to see the slideshow (I have failed to install a suitable player on the page — something else to work on!)

HTM Presentation

In the meantime, I am starting a campaign to say things simply. This past week-end my blood-pressure has been raised by the number of instances of gobbledegook occurring in ‘official communications’ and even private conversation. Surely, we can say what we mean simply; or is the problem that we are not too sure what we do mean?


21 thoughts on “Saying Things Simply”

  1. Good Morning – the presentation worked on my pc and I was clear you were asking for help in raising £2m due to physical constraints

    4 brief suggestions
    1) have the link address on the last slide
    2) give a volume indicator to your online impact
    3) say something about what physically the £2m creates
    4) add some pictures/diagrams

    hope this is helpful

  2. Thank you for your very helpful comments. This is, in fact, the second part of a presentation we’ll be putting up on our main web site. The first part addresses some of the points you’ve made — I hope to add it later this week. The trouble about indicating our online impact is that it is variable . . . we don’t want to exaggerate anything, but on the other hand, it is only too easy to downplay what we have managed to do. I think we can add some indicators of what £2M would achieve within the time constraints we’ve set for the presentation. Thank you again.

  3. I’m not a fundraiser, but I have worked closely with fundraisers (I do marketing in charities) – a few further suggestions after “useful in parts”‘s excellent ideas:

    1) give a timeline. By when do you want to have hit 2m? Can it be broken up, i.e. 1m by XX date, 2m by XX date. Give a good reason for those dates, make them yours, and work toward them in a sustained campaign. Nothing falls flat quicker than a campaign with no deadline, because people think “well I’ll give later, sometime” and never do.

    2) from my perspective working in disability related charities: remember that not everyone can read. Whether it’s visual impairments or illiteracy: I would strongly suggest having the words spoken as well. Turn the music way down in order for that to work, because people with hearing problems have trouble separating spoken words from music when they are played together.

    Hope that helps,

  4. *as this is a women’s community, I’d prefer to hear women’s voices
    *is the second to last frame necessary? I assume it is the ‘submenu’ previously mentioned but I found it confusing rather than helpful

    We are often urged to simplify, to downsize, de-clutter. Quakers have a testimony of simplicity which includes simplicity in speech. ‘Speaking plain’ is about speaking truthfully and honestly, but what a wonderful insight to add resisting ‘gobbledegook’.

    That said, one of the reasons I enjoy this blog is the clarity of language and full punctuation used to express often complex ideas. Thank you.

  5. I was going to raise both the points that Patricia has already made so will just add that the head on the ‘Who?’ page seemed to my view to be a middle-aged man – this from a fleeting exposure only of course. Perhaps more than one head could be used to suggest donors of different ages and gender?

  6. Everything seems to have been said. I’ll add maybe that I like colors and religious art, so I would play with your powerpoint to make it more aesthetically drawing.
    Otherwise, your points are well-made and you should have soon a success on your hands. I have heard of a monastery of men doing this in France with success.
    You have my prayers and I will see what we can do 🙂

  7. I run a consultancy which specialises in organisational decluttering and have always admired the simplicity and clarity of your website. Like other commentators I would prefer to hear women’s voices on the soundtrack and to see some colour in the presentation. “Lectio divina” and “discerners” are jargon terms which have a function within your organisation but are confusing to those outside. Good luck with the project.

  8. Thank you for all your comments, which are much appreciated. As I said yesterday, this is the ‘second half’ of a two-part presentation which will go up on our main web site.

    None of you has made any comment on the thing I was most anxious to test: the slide duration, which changes with the different texts. So, that’s probably acceptable. (We all read at different speeds and are irritated by texts that move too quickly or too slowly.)

    Colour scheme: this is meant to integrate with our main web site which has a restricted colour-palette. I know that’s a bit subjective, but since I’m principally responsible for the colour-scheme there, I suppose I have a deep-seated preference for the sombre tones! We are using different templates for different settings, so the presentation, when completed, will look different on Google +, on Facebook and here.

    Men’s voices: you may have noticed that whenever we include a clip of plainsong on our web sites, we always use men’s voices. That’s because (a) we are too small a community to do justice to the chant and (b) if we use another community’s recording (with permission, of course), many people assume we are more numerous than we are or that we’re passing off someone else’s work as our own. I can assure you, no one ever reads the small print!

    Accessibility: we are aware of the issues and did debate whether to do a voice-over, (we do run an audio library for the visually impaired and develop web sites commercially, after all), but everything in the presentation is available in text form on our web site and can be ‘spoken’ by the computer. We didn’t want to double-up what is already being said in the video part, so we added the invocation of the Holy Spirit. We are rather hoping the Holy Spirit will move the hearts and loosen the purse strings of those who watch!

    Gender free graphics? Oh dear, I have very limited drawing skills. Can anyone help? (And please don’t send anything unless you are absolutely sure it is not someone else’s copyright.)

    Religious art: we would usually only include this if (a) we had copyright permission, which can be VERY expensive (even that little oak sapling cost several dollars to use) or (b) if it added to the meaning. We don’t own beautiful buildings or wonderful artworks, so we can’t really draw on the kind of images other communities have freely available to them.

    I think the video part will give an adequate idea of where we are actually living and some of the constrains that imposes, but we don’t want to concentrate on the negative.

    Timeline? How long is a piece of string? We can’t close the campaign until the object is achieved, and in today’s economic conditions that is difficult to forecast. We have developed a five year and a ten year plan, and have what in any other organization would be called a Business Plan, but one has to decide what is appropriate for general viewing and what would be better kept for a more ‘specialist’ audience.

    Jargon: that is always a problem. I had hoped that by linking lectio divina with study, even ‘outsiders’ would get the general idea; so too with novices and ‘discerners’.

    I hope I have responded to all your points. Once again, my best thanks for your taking the time and trouble to comment.We shall certainly be taking everything you’ve said into consideration as we refine the presentation.

  9. I think you addressed this but I was displeased to have to download Quicktime before I could view the slideshow. I am limited to dial up and downloading software was time consuming and data intensive. I am aware that you use Apple products but not everyone does – any Windows media player would have been more acceptable to me personally.

    I also don’t much like this type of presentation, which reminds me of overhead displays, but I am sure that you have your reasons, such as time and cost involved. I would like to have seen photos of the nuns or other graphics, rather than so much focus on text.

    End of criticisms – I don’t know if they are helpful or not. I admire that you are trying to raise so much money and will keep you in my prayers. If it is God’s will, then it will happen, but you are certainly making your efforts to cooperate with His grace.

  10. Annie, I’m sorry that you had the nuisance of downloading software. There is always a trade-off between the viewer’s resources and our own; and, as I trust I have made clear, this is a work-in-progress for which I was running a test before advancing too far. Thank you for your good wishes and prayers: we don’t want the money for its own sake but in order to try to respond more completely to God’s grace.

    • Oh yes, I realize you are trying to respond to God’s grace – aren’t we all? Money is never really the problem, although it certainly seems to take our focus sometimes. I have no doubts that in His own good time, He will provide all that your community needs, just as He always has. And we can all help out in one way or another, be it financially or with our prayers.

  11. I think the slideshow is clear, simple and to the point. It’s not too long so that interest is lost before the end. I wish more presentations were like this.

    There was one slide when the time delay was just a bit too short to finish reading it all.

    I would echo one earlier point; put the web address on the final slide.

  12. Just a couple of things:

    – I would drop the twinkly stars animation. Or reduce it, either make the effect itself more subtle, or use it more sparingly.
    – In one slide (I made a mental note, of which, but have mislaid it!) the colour of the text changes mid-line. When I saw the next slides, I saw why you changed colour, and in them whole paragraphs are in different colours, but in this first one of the set it looks like a mistake. The more so as the difference in colour is not great.

    Just those 🙂

    • Thank you, Berenike. As you’d expect, we’ve also had respondents on Facebook who loved those effects. That is the beauty of consulting: you know you can please half the people half the time or displease the same proportion, depending on whether you want to be upbeat or downbeat.

  13. Thank you for all your postings, and for giving sight of your aims for a permanent home for Holy Trinity. The one thing I would like to understand is why your aims cannot be accomplished as part of another Benedictine monastery? It seems to me that economies of scale could be achieved which would still permit you to carry out your own especial work. And I speak as one who is grateful for, and enjoys your blog and website. Yet, in the current climate, it would be helpful to be clear about why you need to have a separate monastery to do what you do? £2M is a great deal of money…

    Wishing you the very best with your continued endeavours.

  14. Thank you, Marie, for your question and your good wishes. I thought about replying privately, but as you’ve asked publicly, it may be that others would like to see the answer; so . . . please prepare for a longish read. You’ll recognize that several points are covered in the Future section of our main web site, but it won’t hurt to link them to this thread so that they can be found in one place.

    First, I think I have to point out that there is no other Benedictine community quite like ours. All Benedictine communities are autonomous (independent), so although they have likenesses (just as married couples/families do), they also have their uniqueness (as married couples/families do). For some years we have been the only Benedictine community in this country doing what we do in a consistent way, and I’d say that it is only a smaller, more ‘lightweight’ kind of community that can be responsive as we have been. We have a very clear idea of what we are trying to be (and do) as contemplative nuns.

    I think it’s relevant that for the past seven years we have financed ourselves and our charitable undertakings predominantly from our own work. That has given a distinctive character to our community life. Perhaps because of what we do, the way in which we do it, and that indefinable thing called community spirit, people want to join us. They want to join US, not some other community which may lay less emphasis on prayer or which regards the internet as the devil’s own tool, or is situated in a different part of the country. Other communities may not be attracting people to the same degree, but the reasons for that may be many. Having myself lived in a big community, I am pretty confident that an influx of aliens (people from another community) would not necessarily change things!

    We are keen to stay at this end of the diocese, where there are no other communities of contemplative women, and where easy access to Oxford and Reading means that we can give entrants a sound theological grounding, etc. One of our special interests, the spiritual needs of time-poor women, could be usefully addressed here, too: communications along the Thames corridor are excellent.

    The house we currently rent was never intended to be permanent. Sadly, it’s too small for guests or novices, expensive to run as the fabric is not in very good condition, and in constant need of repair. We’ve spent a lot of time trying to make the public areas welcoming, but the nuns’ quarters are an anxiety to me.

    What would £2M buy? When you take into account professional fees, the cost of moving and some necessary alterations/additional furniture, this is what £2M would just about cover: a 6 to 8 bedroom house, where 4 bedrooms are small and plain (for the nuns), eg. ex servants’ quarters; a kitchen; a dining room that could be turned into an oratory or chapel; a drawing room that could be adapted for use by guests (as guest dining room, sitting room/meeting room); a study/office (we have run out of room to file all the paper required in the administration of a Charity, to say nothing of the business we run); bathrooms and a utility room; garden; perhaps cellars. Into this total space, we must also fit our library and the audio library we run for the blind and visually impaired with all its equipment.

    Not all houses of sufficient size in the £1.3M to £1.8M price range have garages, which we would need as it is difficult to manage without a small car. Ideally we are looking for a property where we can achieve some separation at times between guests and nuns. We have a short-list of houses, and I can assure you that finding one with 6/8 bedrooms and a couple of biggish rooms on the ground floor under £2M is not easy.

    We have asked for help from those who can identify with what we are and what we do. To begin with, we didn’t ask for donations at all but for investment in our Charitable Bond; now we are widening the ways in which people can help, if they want to (emphasize, if they want to). For those who’d like to look at things in a more ‘commercial’ way, we have a proven track record of innovation and careful financial management. It has taken years of saving to afford the process we are now engaged on. We hope that God will bless it and make it bear fruit for the Church, but I appreciate that we have two big handicaps to overcome:
    very few understand how the Catholic Church and its institutions are financed (most people assume we are financed by some invisible central fund) and the life of contemplative nuns itself isn’t well understood. Having said that, I daresay anyone reading this blog for a bit will have realised we are just as quirky and cantankerous as anyone else although we have our sights set firmly on the Kingdom. Please pray for us.

    • Thank you for your thoughtful reply – it is most helpful to have a clearer picture of the practical realities of what you hope to do, and why you wish to achieve it as your own community rather than part of another larger one. Wishing you all the very best for the future, and I shall continue to enjoy your blog & website.

  15. Thank you for the specifics. Through your posts/web site , it is clear that you take seriously the idea of seeking God above all else and in reaching out to others with Benedictine hospitality.

    Thank you for the hard work the community is doing to establish a permanent home that can accomodate those who wish to join you as nuns, and which provides the space you need for your work for the visually impaired , and your outreach to those who live near as well as to those of us who live thousands of miles away.

    I hope that God will bless your work and inspire others to help make a permanent home a reality in the very near future.

  16. Thank you, Meg, for your comment. There is one point about the ‘specifics’ I should clarify. We are hoping to get a property with 6 to 8 bedrooms, which would enable us to take a couple of novices and, at the same time, provide resident guest facilities, for which we are often asked. That’s important both from the point of view of hospitality and running costs. In time we would hope to take more candidates and, hopefully, perhaps more guests, which would involve further changes. We are trying to be realistic about the starting-point and the stages of growth.

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