Bloom Your Online Relationships Challenge, a 30-day free program to encourage relationship-building with our online communities, and today's challenge dovetails perfectly with a post I've been wanting to write. (P.S. My offering in the BYOR challenge comes up on September 15, so make sure to sign up so you can get my tip!)
Today's challenge is about "being incomplete," leaving out details so others can participate and fill in the gaps.
And recently, I've had conversations with a couple of speakers who have a really hard time with this.
The conversation usually goes something like this: "I have too much to say in X amount of time." Or, "I have trouble explaining what I do because it's so complex and detailed." Or, "People just don't get it."
And these comments come with an exasperated tone and a clear disappointment in the audience, that the audience is just too clueless to understand without lots of lecturing.
What I really want to say when I hear this is "Get over yourself!" But that wouldn't be very constructive.
Here's what I mean.
Speakers and subject matter experts often suffer from the "Curse of Knowledge," described by Chip and Dan Heath in their book Made to Stick as what happens when our knowledge about a subject becomes so great that we have trouble communicating that knowledge to others. It becomes so hard for us to imagine NOT knowing what we know, that we can't fathom how others don't understand us when we share.
We speak over our audiences' heads, we give far too much detail, and we pack our presentations so full of information that our audiences leave numb and slack-jawed from the mental barrage.
And do they retain anything? Not much! Especially when all this information and detail is delivered in lecture format. Because some of us are so convinced that we need to use every minute to speak that we forget about interaction and engagement.
How can you fight the Curse of Knowledge? Don't just expect your audience to approach your topic with beginner's mind and to be open to new ideas, but approach it yourself with beginner's mind.
Even if you've given the same presentation a hundred times, next time you prepare for an engagement, ask yourself the following questions:
1. What does the audience really need, want and care about?
2. Is there enough white space for them to think about and process your ideas?
3. How can you help the audience best grasp your ideas through activities, questions, and engagement?
[What else would you add? Is one of these harder for you than the others? Please share in the comments!]
And I'm serious when I say "Get over yourself." Nobody can share everything they know about a subject in the kind of time frame we have for presenting. It's a given. It doesn't mean you're that much smarter than everyone else, or that your topic is so much more complex than your audience can ever understand.
It just means that you know a lot! Which is why you've been invited to speak. So enjoy it, and remember that your knowledge comes with responsibility.
Always remember that it's your job to make sure that you present in a way that your audience can gain value and relevant tools to make their lives and work better. If your audience doesn't get it, take a look in the mirror (or at your video, which I hope you record from time to time).
And figure out what you can do to make your topic accessible and yourself approachable to your audience by creating a presentation that doesn't drown them in information, but rather leaves them feeling curious, intrigued and wanting more.
What else can you do to fight the Curse of Knowledge in your presentations? Please share in the comments!