‘The Curse of Knowledge’ in public speaking and presenting

Presentation tips - a Book

‘The Curse of Knowledge’ presents a significant challenge for most presenters.

The ‘Curse of Knowledge’  is a phenomenon we experience every week in our training workshops.

In layman’s terms,’The Curse of Knowledge,’ simply means that you assume that other people know the things that you do.

It’s a curse because it causes you to believe that people understand you a lot better than they really do.

It’s something I’ve been on the receiving end of no less than twice in the last 24 hours alone.

Incident 1

I called my cable T.V Company to find out exactly what package I was on and how much money I could save by simply removing the sports channel.

Greeted by the most charming customer service operator, she spent 20 minutes telling me about all of the ‘incredible’ offers, deals and discounts that were available at the moment.

She shared so much information so fast that I completely lost the thread of what she was talking about. I amost forgot why I called in the first place. She clearly knew her business inside out but her offers had nothing to do with the reason for my call.

I regretted making the call and didn’t get what I wanted, even after a 20 minute lecture.

Incident 2

Having recently changed web platforms I have been really excited to work with a new innovative business that seems to offer me so much more value.

As great as they are and as much as I love them, they still take money from me to implement changes and assume that I know as much as they do about the functionality of those changes.

I don’t of course and that is really frustrating.

I tell them what I want and they implement the change beautifully, but because they know how it works, they assume that I do to.

Being on the receiving end of assumptions can be very time consuming and distressing.

When it comes to presenting ‘the curse of knowledge’ is a very destructive force

The solution

Once you acknowldgte and understand the impact of  the’Curse of Knowledge,’  here is what you can do to overcome it:

1. Use examples

The curse of knowledge can completely sabotage any intention you may have of connecting with your audience to influence action or change.

Think about specific, relevant and compelling examples you can give to illustrate what you mean.

It may be a personal experience, a story or simply a clear analogy.

Whatever you do, don’t assume that just because you understand what you know that they will too.

2. Ask them how much they know

The ‘curse’ is of course greatly exacerbated by not making the effort to find out as much as you can about how much your audience already knows.

That knowledge is unlikely to be gained by spending hours on Google or even studying the company website or annual report. You need to cure the curse by asking your audience.

Ask your audience 3 extremely powerful questions:

– How much do you know already?  

– What do you need to know?        

– What do you want to know?

3. Slow down

Have you noticed that a close conspirator of the curse is speed?

We know so much and have so much to share, in such little time, that we unconsciously cram it all in without taking a breath.

That’s where we really lose our audience.

If you are troubled by the curse, try pacing your presentation out.

Build in pauses to allow your audience to catch up.

Take a moment to breath after each sentence too and feel the difference it makes for you and your audience.

4. Craft a conversation

Another potent way of breaking the curse, is by crafting a conversation rather than a one way presentation.

The way to create a conversation is to mindfully build in opportunities for the audience to share their insights and participate in the content. That can be achieved through having a discussion, inviting questions, using props or simply getting them actively involved in some way.

If you need help with the curse of knowledge when presenting:

– Book yourself onto a powerful public speaking course.

– Invest in some really good one to one public speaking coaching.

– Get yourself some excellent presentation training

Image: Courtesy of flickr.com

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