Dynamic Marketing Communiqué

Overcome the CURSE of Knowledge… let go! Bridge the gap between you and your audience! [Wednesdays: “Speak on the Shoulders of Giants”]

March 24, 2021

“Scientia potentia est.”

This Latin aphorism translates to “Knowledge is power.”

In the context of public speaking, having knowledge enables us to communicate our thoughts and transform our ideas into reality.

However, just like any power, knowledge can be a “curse” too.

There’s a public speaking term to this, called…

“The Curse of Knowledge.”

According to Robin Hogarth, a British-American psychologist, the “curse of knowledge” is a cognitive bias where a speaker forgets what it feels like to “not know something.”

Simply put, a speaker assumes everybody knows or is familiar with his or her presentation topic.

As a speaker, one of the biggest challenges you could face is how to effectively convey your topic to a diverse audience.

Always remember that yes, some of them might already be familiar with your subject, but there are still others who might not.

As a speaker, you should know how to put yourself in your audience’s shoes and make sure everyone is on the same page.

How can you overcome the “curse of knowledge?”

  1. Avoid overusing jargons.

    Using complicated terms that are unfamiliar to your listeners do not make you smart; rather, it makes you sound intimidating. This is not a good indicator of being an effective speaker.

    Remember: You’re delivering your speech or presentation not to impress, but to express.

    If you want to know whether or not you clearly expressed your message, consider your audience’s reaction to your talk.

    Did they doze off when you began discussing technical information, such as statistics and in-depth research?

    Were they using their phones most of the time while you’re talking on stage?

    Did they frequently fidget on their seats, as if they’re eager for your presentation to end?

    If your answers to these questions are “yes” or “a little bit,” then there’s something you need to change in the way you deliver your talk… and in the kinds of words you use.

    It’s okay to include a bit of jargon in your presentation, but DON’T overuse these terms.

    Additionally, if it’s really necessary to mention these words to get your message across, make sure to provide explanations that your audience will easily understand. This is so there won’t be any room for confusion throughout your talk.

  2. Properly link your ideas, topics, or sentences together.

    It’s not enough to just “utter” sentences. You have to create a connection between them. Keep in mind that while you already know how your ideas are linked together, your audience does not.

    For example:

    “Chimpanzees have vastly greater strength than humans. Humans learned how to use tools to amplify their natural strength. Of course, chimpanzees also use tools.”

    Notice that there is no existing link between these sentences. What is it about chimpanzees and humans using tools?

    Aside from that, the tone of the quote above is too stiff that it might lead your audience to ask, “So what?”

    If you leave that statement as is, your listeners will get confused and they won’t easily grasp the point you are trying to make.

    Don’t expect the audience to connect all the pieces of your presentation on their own. As a speaker, one of your jobs is to make sure you provide a seamless experience for your listeners.

    How can you tweak the example above into something more comprehensible?

    Here’s one way:

    “While chimpanzees have vastly greater strength than humans, humans are better tool users. Because of these tools, humans’ natural strength has been amplified far beyond that of chimpanzees.”

    The revised statement is better than the first one, right?

    The flow is smoother and the connection between “strength” and “usage of tools” is more evident.

    The bottomline we can get from this tip?

    To make your point clearer, it’s also important to consider the flow of your explanations or paragraph arrangements in your speech or presentation.

  3. Be specific about your topic.

    Your chosen subject may cover a wide range of subtopics. For instance, a talk about banking may include wealth management, data security, or corporate trusts.

    To know the topics to include in your presentation, you have to consider the time as well as the academic background of most of the attendees.

    Trying to discuss everything in one go will lessen the chances of your talk making a lasting impact on your audience.

    Why is that so?

    It’s because a web of unorganized topics can also result in a web of confusion on your listeners’ end. To prevent that from happening…

    “Kill your darlings!”

    This means no matter how interesting a particular subtopic is, if it doesn’t serve the purpose of supplementing your presentation, you have to let it go. Discuss only the concepts or ideas that will help your audience clearly understand your point.

    Don’t feel bad about not being able to cover everything in your talk. Who knows? Your next public speaking engagement might be a more appropriate avenue for you to talk about the other topics under your field of expertise!

  4. Incite excitement among your audience.

    How can you keep your listeners engaged?

    One way is by piquing their curiosity so they will be excited to know more about your talk.

    To give you an illustration…

    In 2013, Bonnie Bassler, a molecular biologist, delivered a presentation to the audience at TED about how bacteria communicate with one another.

    Before discussing her lab research, she first introduced her talk by making it relevant to the listeners.

    Here’s what she said:

    “I know you guys think of yourselves as humans, and this is sort of how I think of you.

    There’re about a trillion human cells that make each one of us who we are and able to do all the things that we do, but you have ten trillion bacterial cells in you or on you at any moment in your life.

    So, ten times more bacterial cells than human cells on a human being… These bacteria are not passive riders, they are incredibly important; they keep us alive. They cover us in an invisible body armor that keeps environmental insults out so that we stay healthy. They digest our food, they make our vitamins, they actually educate your immune system to keep bad microbes out.

    So they do all these amazing things that help us and are vital for keeping us alive, and they never get any press for that.”

    If you were part of the audience at that time, wouldn’t you also get thrilled to discover such information?

    There are a lot of ways to keep your listeners engaged throughout your presentation.

    Aside from making your topic interesting by making it easy for your audience to understand (like what Bonnie Bassler did), you may add “exciting twists” such as anecdotes or a few jokes when appropriate.

    Doing so will make the attendees of your speech or presentation more interested and focused on your topic as these stories give them room to “breathe,” relax, and process information in their minds.

Being knowledgeable about a certain subject in your speech or presentation is a good thing, but the real test of mastery lies in your ability to communicate your topic.

Keep in mind that an effective explanation sparks curiosity for your audience and compels them to fix their attention on your talk.

Besides, wouldn’t you want your presentation to be remembered as not only informative but also engaging and interesting?

Apply these tips to overcome the “curse of knowledge” and to be able to impart your ideas in a manner that will benefit your audience!

About The Dynamic Marketing Communiqué’s
“Wednesdays: Speak on the Shoulders of Giants”

In a meeting with one person

…a boardroom with five people

…or a huge venue with hundreds of people

—whatever the situation or setting, it’s very important to learn and eventually master the art of public speaking.

No matter what, you always need to effectively get your message across.

What good is a presentation with awesome content if you don’t deliver it properly?

Every Wednesday, we publish different tips, insights, and secrets on how you can improve your presentation skills to captivate your audience and lead interesting discussions.

The need for great presentation skills applies EVERYWHERE.

(Small meetings with your team, big meetings with your boss, an important marketing pitch, speaking engagements for events with a big audience, etc.)

Learning these skills is not just for the corporate world. Being in other industries such as the Arts, Information Technology, Medicine, and Education while knowing how to present well will definitely give you an edge.

Have that advantage.

Hope you’ve found this week’s public speaking tip interesting and helpful.

Stay tuned for next Wednesday’s Speak on the Shoulders of Giants!


Kyle Yu
Head of Marketing
Valens Dynamic Marketing Capabilities
Powered by Valens Research

View All

You don’t have access to the Valens Research Premium Application.

To get access to our best content including the highly regarded Conviction Long List and Market Phase Cycle macro newsletter, please contact our Client Relations Team at 630-841-0683 or email client.relations@valens-research.com.

Please fill out the fields below so that our client relations team can contact you

Or contact our Client Relationship Team at 630-841-0683