Every time you speak, you are in competition.
Not with other individuals or companies.
You’re competing with a device that has become the center of most peoples lives:
The cell phone.
I know what you may be thinking, “Thanks, Mr. Obvious. Everybody knows that.”
I’m not the first person to point this out. Yes, our presentations have to be so good that people won’t want to look at their phones.
However, did you realize that being entertaining and engrossing isn’t enough? You’re still at risk of sending your audience to their phones if you make one common mistake.
Sharing confusing or little-known references that distract the listener.
One Obscure Reference Can Send Them To Their Phones
Recently I was working with a speaker who made a reference to the entertainer Rich Little. Do you know who Rich Little is?
If you do, you’d stay engaged with this speaker and continue listening to his presentation.
But, what if you don’t know who Rich Little is?
You might react in several ways:
One, you might ask the person next to you, “Who is Rich Little?”
Two, you might start thinking, “Did he say Rich Little? Liddel? Lytle?”
Three, the most likely response is that you’d pull out your cell phones and Google the answer.
While you’re doing that, what is the speaker doing?
That’s right, moving on to the next part of his speech. He’s oblivious that he has lost the attention of those people in the audience who have no idea who Rich Little is.
To compound this problem, most audience members will never ask for clarification. They’re afraid of being publicly embarrassed or humiliated, so they stay quiet.
This speaker will lose that audience member’s attention for the rest of the talk. Worse, he’ll never know why.
The Curse Of Knowledge
I frequently hear these obscure references in speeches. They’re one of the biggest reasons you can lose the attention of your audience.
This problem is an excellent example of the curse of knowledge. Not familiar with that reference?
No need to pull out your cell phone; let me explain. The textbook definition is this:
The curse of knowledge is a cognitive bias that occurs when an individual, who is communicating with other people, assumes that the others have the background knowledge to understand.
For example, in a classroom setting, teachers have difficulty because they cannot put themselves in the position of the student. A knowledgeable professor might no longer remember the difficulties that a young student encounters when learning a new subject.
This creates another problem for speakers. Some audience members will believe that we’re trying to show off our knowledge.
That’s usually not the case. We’re often are leaning on references we’re comfortable with. But, our intent isn’t what matters. What does matter is audience perception.
A Simple Solution
This explains why we must think about our topic from the their perspective. We can’t assume they’re familiar with our references. How do we determine what they know?
Ask! Get feedback. Ask people if they’re familiar with your references and examples. What or whom did you refer to that isn’t clear?
Capturing and keeping people’s attention is harder than ever. Their devices that are begging for their attention. Don’t give them an excuse to pull out their phones in the middle of your presentations.
Check your references. Get feedback on your examples. Do this and you’ll avoid losing your audience to your biggest competitor.
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