Imagine giving a speech you’ve practiced for weeks. You’ve never been more enthusiastic about a presentation. As the speech progresses, you sense a lack of connection with the audience. You conclude and walk off the stage to polite, but muted, applause. To make matter worse, the follow-up surveys are filled with comment like “I was confused about the main point,”  “the speaker wan’t clear,” and “I don’t understand the purpose of this speech.”
What happened? How could the audience not get it?  You’re an expert in your field, you researched your talk, and these are the responses you get?
What you may be experiencing is, the Curse of Knowledge. This term, originally credited to economistGive stories and speeches without the curse of knowledge Robin Hogarth, refers to the frustration felt by people who are well-informed about a subject when they interact with people who are less-informed about that subject. If is difficult for the well-informed person to understand why others don’t understand the subject as well.  
If you’ve ever tried to teach math to a child, or instruct a teenager how to drive a car, you may have felt frustrated when the kid didn’t learn quickly.  You may have thought, “What’s wrong with you? This is so easy!”
It is easy…for you. You probably have years of experience with this subject. The other person doesn’t.  
This phenomenon was described in the book, Made to Stick, by Chip and Dan Heath. In an experiment, one group of subjects “tapped” a well-known song on a table while another person listened and tried to identify that song. Some of the people tapping described a rich sensory experience in their minds as they tapped out the song. The people tapping the songs estimated that 50% of listeners would guess the name of the song. In reality, only 2.5% of listeners could identify the song.
Why is this?  The tappers had a reference point. They could easily hear the song in their heads as they tapped. But, the listener had NO reference point. All they heard was a series of taps that made no sense.  
Try the tapping exercise.  It will help you better understand this problem.  
How can this help with your speeches?  Since you can’t un-know what you know, how can you best help your audience learn your message?  When preparing your next presentation:  
  1. Don’t assume the knowledge level of your audience. Do as much research as possible before your speech, but avoid making statements in your talk like “As I’m sure you know” or “You probably don’t know this…..” Give them the benefit of the doubt.
  2. Survey your prospective audience and ask what they’d like to know about your subject. This is the best method to avoid talking over their heads and creating confusion.
  3. Ask the meeting planner who hired you about the level of expertise they are looking for.
The next time you prepare your speech, think about the tapping exercise. Ask yourself if you are suffering from the Curse of Knowledge. Avoid creating a major disconnect with your audience. Knowledge of the problem can help you take steps to create a connection, and leave your audience with a message they can act on.
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Stand OUT! Speaking Tip: Is The Curse of Knowledge Alienating Your Audience? ultima modifica: 2014-03-03T00:26:11-05:00 da Michael Davis