Bill Gates hasn’t always been the best communicator, but he has figured out how to become better at the art of communication over the years. Beginning in 2006, when Gates announced he would focus most of his time on philanthropy through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, he also began to think seriously about how to communicate the complex problems the foundation was trying to solve—extreme poverty, childhood deaths, and global healthcare—in simple ways that most people could understand. He knew it would be nearly impossible to encourage stakeholders to take action, or donate their wealth, if he failed to grab their attention and to persuade them to sacrifice for the greater good.
For example, every year Bill and Melinda Gates write a letter focusing on the big issues of poverty, foreign aid, and philanthropy. The title of the 2014 letter was 3 Myths That Block Progress for the Poor. Instead of overwhelming people with too much information, Gates chose three myths to dispel in the newsletter.
There’s also a video on the foundation’s website that you would have never seen from the Bill Gates who ran Microsoft. In this short, two-minute video, Bill Gates uses old school technology—even older than PowerPoint—to describe how the world has improved since 1960. Gates uses nothing more than simple circle drawings on a white notepad. This being said, we can all learn something very valuable from Gates here: complex ideas must be communicated simply.