When you give your presentation, by definition you’re the expert. You know more than you think. That’s great, but it does have a risk with it – the Curse of the Expert.
The Curse of the Expert
1 – Teaching your child to tell the time
Think back to when you tried to teach someone to tell the time. If you’ve not done that yet, don’t worry, it’s just an illustration.
Think about this for a moment – it’s not a trick question, honestly. If you’re trying to teach a child (or anyone!) to tell the time, which watch face would you rather be using? The one on the left? Or the one on the right? It’s obviously the one on the left. Once someone can tell the time you can start adding more and more complicated things and ideas, until you have the watch face on the right.
Here’s where the curse of the expert comes in.
Because you’re an expert in what you’re delivering, it’s all too often easy to mistake the watch face on the right for the watch face on the left.
Tough but true.
Einstein said (something like) “ If you can’t explain it to a 12 year old, you don’t really understand it“. (Actually, there are lots of variations of this quote which talk about “a six year old” or “to a young child” and I’ve never been able to find out which one is canon, but the point is valid, no matter which version you opt for.) And this idea of explaining things as though to a smart child is the ideal starting point for thinking about how ‘advanced’ to make your presentations.
Children don’t know much – but they learn very, very quickly and if you think about your audience like that you’ll not go far wrong.
2 – The Twitter Technique
A technique to handle a lot of these problems (not simplifying enough/curse of the expert) is called The Twitter Technique (or the Twitter Tool). The idea behind it is painfully simple and it’s based upon using Twitter (not literally!) as a defining limit on what you tell people…
In order to give yourself absolutely crystal clarity on what your presentation is attempting to achieve, try and capture that essence in the 140 characters of a tweet. Don’t be anally literal about this: it’s an exercise, not a life-and-death issue: if you need 155 characters instead of Twitter’s normal maximum give yourself a break. The point is to use the 140 characters as a tool to extracting the pith of what you’re trying to say.
The video below show ten examples of the results of this techniques taken from recent live training with clients. (You’ll see we’ve redacted one of them – a couple of the others are edited slightly too, to protect confidentiality.) Play it through a couple of times and look at how there is a pattern.
(Technical aside, this video starts with a few seconds of blank white screen – don’t panic)
And the pattern? The huge majority of outcomes have two sentences or phrases. The first gives background or how things are now, at the beginning of the presentation, and the second one tells the audience what will changed by the end. You don’t need to follow this approach as a rule but our experience is that it’s a handy guideline.
There are exceptions however.
Play the video through one more time, but this time pause it after about 30 seconds. The screen talking about food waste doesn’t say what will change – but there’s so much implied (about food waste being bad, etc.) that we can get away with this one… but what about the next one, showing at about the 36 seconds mark?
You’ll be unsurprised to know that the presentation that led this tweet was boring, not listened to, and annually dreaded by staff as a waste of time (and money). Why? Because from their point of view it didn’t contain a “so that”.
Without knowing exactly what needs to change,
it’s not possible to craft a presentation to change it.
Give yourself the Twitter Test! And when you’re done, as yourself this question…
Will it make the boat go faster? (Don’t worry – the next session explains all! 🙂 )