I am trying to figure out what would be the opposite of "dumb down" as in "I can dumb down this presentation". In this example the presentation is too complex and needs to be simplified for the target audience, but what about the other way around, I can't say "complex up", and whilst "smarten up" is valid it doesn't work in this context.


3 Answers 3


I'm not sure there is a simple established phrase that complements "dumb down." As you've mentioned in some earlier comments to previous answers, verbs like complicate or complexify don't do the trick – the goal is not to make the presentation more complicated, the goal is to make it less simplistic. Those two aren't quite synonymous.

I can't think of a good single word or established idiom, but I think I'd probably say it something like this:

I can dumb down this presentation, or I can make it speak to the expert.
I don't want to dumb down this presentation, I want it geared it more toward the expert.

Adding the word expert is key, I think. According to Wikipedia, dumbing down is:

the deliberate oversimplification of intellectual content within education, literature, cinema, news, video games and culture in order to relate to those unable to assimilate more sophisticated information (emphasis added)

In regards to a presentation, I think we generally "dumb down" information to make it more digestible for novices and neophytes; therefore, the opposite would be to design the presentation for experts, rather than for the masses.

I looked up expert in a thesaurus, just to see if there was a better word that could be used. Several words were listed (including authority, pundit, maestro, virtuoso, master, wizard, connoisseur, and aficionado), but the only one I thought might be a worthy alternate candidate was specialist:

We don't need to dumb down this presentation; it's designed for the specialist.

  • "Dumbing down" is associated with (over) simplifying the topic, so the opposite might be going more in depth, or including more detail. "I can dumb it down, or go into more detail" It's interesting that you chose the definite article - I probably would say "geared toward an expert", but I'm not sure why. The definite article sounds fine; it's just a style preference I think.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Aug 14, 2016 at 2:48
  • 1
    @Colleen - The problem with "going into more detail" is that sometimes we remove content from a presentation when it's geared toward an expert audience. I can remember getting a presentation ready for a conference; my advisor sternly warned me to take out all the introductory material from my slides. "Everyone in the room will already know that," he said, "and they won't want you wasting their time by telling them." If we change the verb, we might get closer: I can dumb it down, or delve into more detail, e.g. Anyway, I thought this was a great question – challenging, but interesting.
    – J.R.
    Commented Aug 14, 2016 at 9:38
  • Yeah, I thought it was an interesting question too, because there's a lot of meaning wrapped up in "dumbed down".
    – ColleenV
    Commented Aug 14, 2016 at 11:36

If you intend the material to be hard to understand, then I like complicate

  1. complicate
    : to make (something) more difficult or less simple

It does not imply that the material will be digestible. On the contrary, I feel like it implies that the material will be difficult to understand.

If you want to make it more detailed, but still understandable, I would say make something sophisticated.

  1. sophisticated
    1. : deprived of native or original simplicity: as
      a : highly complicated or developed : complex

I didn't see a problem with smarten, or smarten up. You said "it's doesn't work here", but didn't explain why. It sounds like it does.

  1. smarten
    : to make smart or smarter; especially : spruce —usually used with up.
  2. smarten up
    1. US : to become more intelligent or aware : to become smarter
    2. US : to make (someone or something) smarter or more aware
  • 1
    If I was asked to smarten up a presentation I would interpret that as making it more visually appealing, and this is not the opposite of dumb down.
    – bikeman868
    Commented Aug 13, 2016 at 21:22

To complexify

Oxford English Dctionary:

a. trans. To make complex or complicated. rare.
b. intr. To become (more) complex or complicated. rare.


You could complicate or overcomplicate a presentation.

  • 1
    I don't think I would ever ask someone to complicate their presentation. If the presentation was too simplistic and therefore uninteresting to the target audience and I want the presentation to be more detailed, in depth and more technical I can't think of a simple phrase that embodies that.
    – bikeman868
    Commented Aug 13, 2016 at 21:21

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