Manage episode 372908945 series 2950797
How much is too much? For the expert, the boundaries on this equation can be quite broad. For them, we are only tapping into the very superficial elements of this worthy subject. They have so many layers at their disposal and they can go to exquisite depths of complexity and nuance, within a heartbeat. When they are addressing the great unwashed, the best laid plans can go astray.
I was one of the great unwashed, turning up to a complex subject in search of some better understanding and education on the topic. The expert’s temptation is to try to cram as much material as possible into the talk and show both their tremendous expertise but also the depths of the beauty of the topic. They are at the “art” end of the scale, while the punters in the room are more at the utilitarian end. The bombardment of the depth of materials can cause brain whiteout, as our cerebral capacities are severely challenged by the concepts, the data and the complexity of the delivery. Concentration spans take a hiding and we start to fade.
That was happening to me. We all turned up at night-time after completing hard toil down at the salt mines, so as a group, we were already mentally taxed. Naturally, a complex topic attracts experts in the field, who want to attend the talk to steal from the presenter’s materials or concepts and to gauge how big a threat they are as a competitor. This emboldens the presenter to turn on the expertise faucet and to go deep on the subject to justify why they are the one standing up in front of everyone and presenting, and not one of these other experts in the crowd.
Tonight’s expert also made the typical mistake of pounding us with slides, which were packed to the gunwales with information. We are talking beautiful slides, but so dense. If you were in the front row, you had a shot at being to read the detail, but anyone else would have been struggling, because of the density and small font sizes being employed. He also needed, like a lot of experts, to break his own slide into three or four slides.
Slides are free, by the way, so we don’t have to be parsimonious about their usage. It is better to have one idea per slide than lots of slides with too many ideas on each individual slide. Having complex configurations rarely works because the scale of the font and the micro-detail has to become too small, to fit it all in. Yes, he kindly supplied the slides after the event, but as a presenter, this is too late. We have to deliver our message in that moment, with that crowd and get to them then and there.
He made the mistake of suggesting we could stop him whenever we wanted to during his talk. I don’t recommend this, because you can so easily lose control of the time, because there are now no limits. When you have presentation followed by the Q&A there is a time allocated for the later for a reason. When we mix it up we are in danger of being distracted from our message or having to spend too much time on a relatively minor point to satisfy that questioner. It is also a free for all, with who can ask questions and suddenly you can get into a group debate about a point. This is very exciting, but it destroys your time allocation for the presentation and like him, race through the last 10% - 15% of the slides to finish on time.
One thing he did very well was to come across as an expert without being a pain and a know-it-all. He could phrase certain things which said, I believe this to be true based on my current knowledge and experience, but I could be mistaken. This is quite artful because he is making himself a small target. When you come across as “I am the expert here” then you invite people to want to prove otherwise and bring your ego down a peg or two. He did a good job being the legitimate expert and creating no enemies in the room.
As I have stated many times, it is always a good practice to get the list of who is coming to gauge how expert the crowd will be and also to get there early to suss out the interests of various people in the room. Actually, he didn’t do either of those judging by his late arrival and his high-level approach in presenting his information. I believe in these cases you can demonstrate sufficient expertise to convince the room you know your stuff without having to beat everyone into submission with a relenting “death by powerpoint” performance. He could have shown less and had just as successful a presentation. Less is more, as we say and a handy thing to remember if you are ever asked to give a presentation as an “expert”.