07 December 2009
The Zen of Presentations, Part 30: Entertain your experts with basics
How many times have you watched your favourite movie, listened to a favourite song, or read a favourite book? More than once? Why? Do you really think Bogart is going to get on that plane with Bergman when you play the movie this time?
We can revisit favourites and still enjoy them. We’re not bored because we know what’s going to happen. Instead, we actually take pleasure in something because it’s familiar.
Experts got to be experts in a field usually because they love that stuff. They’re about as likely to be bored by introductory material as a film fan would be bored by watching a great film again. Plus, even when the experts know the material, they won’t have heard it your way. It’s like listening to two different artists playing the same song; each can bring something new to it that makes it enjoyable and worth listening to again. Covering the basics might even make an expert feel good, by reinforcing and confirming her expert status to herself.
If your choice is between boring and confusing an audience member, pick boredom. You can bring a bored audience member back on board, but it’s almost impossible to bring a confused audience member back to the fold. Don’t be afraid if your talk is as much as half introductory material. If you do it right, everyone will be able to follow you through to the end, experts and novices alike.
Additional: Examples of turning something that everyone knew into something new... Does knowing the original diminish the pleasure of the new version?