07 December 2009

The Zen of Presentations, Part 30: Entertain your experts with basics

One of the most common problems with technical presentations is that people do not give enough introductory material. One rationale for skimping on introductory material is often that, “I know experts will be in the audience, and I don’t want to bore them with material they already know.”

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?

16 comments:

Michael.Smith12 said...

Great stuff. Totally agree. True experts will be listening to the introduction looking for new ways of expressing old ideas... that they can steal and use for themselves later.

(BTW - I've got a new blog post on a similar topic http://mikeksmith.posterous.com/giving-technical-presentations)

squazellcolt said...

Brilliant. that was one of great ways for presentation that experts need to consider, it helps the presentation more exciting for audience.

Girl of 1000 Lists said...

Congratulations on being the Blog of Note for today! I agree that it is true that if a book or movie is truly entertaining I can read or watch it over and over again -- and never get bored. It doesn't matter that I know how they turn out. I love them for how they tell their story.

joe said...

very good point! Better to be basic in an original way then try to impress.

Twinkling Thoughts.. said...

Nicely put and well said.

Sophie said...

Congratulations on being the Blog of Note for today!

Goodsooth said...

Hail, Noted Blogger: I agree - down with show-off presenters.

Mr. John said...

Sometime Different can do differently. Some simple texts can give good knowledge. Thanks for this.

The villager: said...

Nice blog....well done !

domminic said...

Wonderful tips
I'll take note on how to improve m presentations
Congrats for being the Blog of Note

Cheers from The Daily Blog

blessingsgoddess said...

We all need to keep our brains in tip-top condition; congratulations !

Things I Murmur At Times said...

It's all about the power of convincing .. how well you can package the 'known things or ideas' with what you want to convery to your target audience.

Netpiler said...

Congrats on making to the blogs of note.

An introduction is good when speaking to the general public. But how much should we think they know? It can be pretty difficult finding the level of audience.

Rythm of life said...

I liked the statement "we actually take pleasure in something because it’s familiar". So very true. Holds for songs aswell.

Sproglet said...

Ugh presentations, I have real issues with public speaking, canny do it at all.

I got some good advice recently though, he told me, when you're doing a presentation just use a basic formula:

-Tell them what you're going to talk about (intro)

-Talk about it

-Tell them what you just talked about (summary)

When you boil it down to that it suddenly doesn't seem SO scary

Gidyean said...

I like the analogy between movies and technical presentations. I work in reseach and have to attend many presentations and I'd have to say the ones most memorable are the ones where the presenter includes either something funny in the slide presentation or tells a funny story while presenting at an appropriate moment.
Congrats on blog of note!