In my work with subject matter experts here is the number one reason why audiences feel presenters are too "deep in the weeds."
The primary reason why experts lose listeners is they generate "knowledge gaps" that are too large for the audience to bridge on their own.
A knowledge gap is the distance between what someone already knows and the information you are presenting.
Y_ _r br_ _n is w_red to f_ll in g_ps.
It's engaging when a gap is small but when a gap is too big it's ____________.
The moment you create gaps a listener cannot bridge, you've lost them.
Here are the top 4 ways knowledge gaps happen and what to do instead.
1. The assumed acronym
Every team I work with admits that there are acronyms used in internal presentations they do not understand, and they're too embarrassed to ask.
Recently, I spoke to a team of scientists. I went on for 10 minutes about how I worked with a client to take her conference presentation on CMV from good to great.
"Any questions?" I said.
"Yes," they answered in unison. "What's CMV?"
I assumed they knew. Their brains were stuck on trying to figure out the acronym and they missed the point of my example. It's not their fault, it's mine.
When you have an acronym in your presentation, say what it means at least once. If it's new or complex, say it a few times.
2. The ambiguous graphic
"As you can see, we were pleased with our results."
As the only non-expert in the room, I asked, "for my benefit, can you please tell me how these graphs show a positive result?"
"I have the same question," every expert in the room chimed in.
"Oh," the presenter said sheepishly, "You don't know?"
When you show data in any form, be explicitly clear on why it's being shown and its interpretation.
3. The language barrier
Every function has its own language.
Finance is unclear what an "assay" is, and research is not quite sure what accountants mean by "depreciation."
Define your terms especially in cross-functional settings.
4. Unmet expectations
There is nothing more painful than starting a presentation and realizing that what you're saying is not what the audience expected to hear. I've done this more often than I want to admit.
I see this consistently when experts present to senior leadership.
Leadership expects you'll give them a quick high-level overview and a recommendation for a decision, and you launch into a full, detailed run-down of clinical trial data.
That gap stops them from hearing anything you say.
When a leader asks you to present, make sure you understand why they are asking and what they expect.
Knowledge gaps are the top reason experts lose their audience.
Work on the art of shortening the gaps so they increase engagement as you guide the audience from where they are to where they need to be.