Why You Need To Focus Your Knowledge

Yesterday I went to a medical billing program that I put together. The presenter is someone very knowledgeable on her subject, so I figured this was going to work out great.

by Ariel Cruz via Imagekind

Things started out well enough but quickly fell apart. It wasn’t that her knowledge was all that much in question, however. It’s that her presentation wasn’t really focused and sharp.

The problem was that she knew exactly what it was she wanted to get across, but she kept crossing information that was totally confusing me. And because I’m the type of guy who will ask questions when confused, I kept stopping her and making her clarify what she was saying. I was really confused for the first hour, and I’ve been doing this type of thing for almost 30 years.

At the break I had the opportunity to talk to a few people. I mentioned how confused I was and that maybe I was taking everything she was saying literally. Each person responded that they also had been confused and that maybe she should have broken up what she had to say so that each facet had its own time instead of trying to mix messages on the same slides. I had to agree, and felt it was a shame that others were confused as well.

After her part of the presentation her co-worker came to do his presentation. His was a bit more focused, when suddenly his terminology changed. Well, that’s not quite accurate; what he did was start using a word in a much different way than I’ve always heard it used. Me being me, I called him on it, and he wasn’t able to give me a proper answer. I let it go until the lunch break, when I went up to him and explained myself, and then he agreed and said he saw it in a slightly different way depending on the topic. The problem of course is that everyone else in the room saw it the same way I did, so he’d kind of lost his audience for awhile as well.

One of the reasons I always start with an outline whenever I’m asked to give a presentation is because I want to make sure that I get my points covered in the order I want to do them. This was point one on my post last week about giving live presentations. Sharing knowledge with others doesn’t really work when you’re all over the place. And trust me, the people in that room were pretty smart already, yet most of us ended up in a fog.

That’s why whenever I’m doing a tutorial of some kind on this blog I give the step by step processes of what I did. Or whenever I put together a list post I make sure to address each particular point before moving on to the next one, and if it’s a procedural list I make sure it’s in order.

Sometimes when we know stuff it’s hard to contain ourselves when we want to share it with others. We all need to learn how to direct our information so that we inform rather than confuse. At least I got handouts. 🙂

21 thoughts on “Why You Need To Focus Your Knowledge”

  1. Good point Mitch! When presenting information, be it in a blog post or in a live forum, it’s best to layout out the info as if your listener/reader is completely new to the topic. Even if they are well versed on a subject it doesn’t hurt to give them a refresher before moving into greater detail.

  2. Especially for presentations, the “kiss” principle works the best, because this presentation target audience, not understanding the presenter is complete failure of presentation. The same apply for blogging, confusing article badly structured most likely will have high bounce rate.

    1. Good stuff Carl. The idea isn’t to play down to an audience as much as trying to make sure that your message is communicated properly. Everyone has their idea on how to present information, but sometimes they don’t stick to their plan, and that’s when things go awry.

      1. I was commenting on another blog few days ago, actually topic was related again to presentations. Actually I’ve mention there that I prefer to hire professional voice over as I am not sure that everybody would understand my accent and actually add notes and tip boxes over the video so everything should be clear.

      2. Whenever we get our shot at talking on Skype we’ll find out if your accent could be understood Carl. One of these days I’m going to have to get some software so I can make videos where I can show what I’m talking about with online stuff instead of just talking about it, for the ability to do webinars and the like.

  3. Thank you for putting this out. It is really important for each of us to stay focused in the knowledge that we have.

  4. I always use an outline when I teach.

    If I didn’t I would end up all over the place, especially if I was very passionate about the subject. I get all excited and get ahead of myself.

    Not good.

    1. Same here Carolee. You came to the presentations I did in March, and both of those had outlines up front so I knew what to cover and when. I always hope that I’m staying on point when I need to.

  5. Due to a similar experience I’ve come to realize that we relate new info with the experience we already have. Practically we come to understand new things based on old stuff. This is why we may understand different things even if the info is the same.

    This is why I think it’s highly important to take into account the background that your listeners have when preparing a presentation.

    1. I agree Mia. Sometimes we know so much about a subject that we just jump in and start talking about it, and if we don’t have a plan then we’re pretty much rambling. Most of the time that helps no one.

  6. I feel you on this. I also have an issue with people with poor presentation styles. Being a boring or poor presenter was one of my biggest fears which is why I joined Toastmasters.

    1. So you’re one of them, eh Marcie? 🙂 I was in Toastmasters for 2 weeks, then had to leave town for awhile and never joined back up. What’s funny is that I’m pretty good standing up in front of a live audience, but I really need to work on my video presentations, which is why I finally bought the camera last December. However, I don’t worry about boring presenters so much as long as the material they’re giving us is worth listening to.

  7. I might said this in the past but I’ll say it again. You have a great style and talent on creating clear content. Among the bloggers I read, you and this Indian kid (writing similar content from a niche point of view) are the most clear writers I’ve seen.
    And as a part-time article writer I must say its damn hard delivering such content on a regular basis. Not everyone can do it, not everyone has enough experience to do it.

    1. Thanks Cristian; who’s the Indian kid? lol When I write this blog it’s kind of freestyle, but when I have a list post I always have my major points listed before I start so that I’m eliminating as much “ramble” as possible. I think if one’s going to be delivering information to an audience they at least need to get that part down right.

  8. Hello!
    Thanks for this share. So may information, and yet, all of them true. I personally don´t like as well people with poor presentation and i agree completely with you. Poor presentation leaves a bad impression about the person, no matter how educated or professional she/he can be. When doing presentations, people need to feel respect towards the persons that came to listen to them, and to explain everything in smallest detail.

    1. Eleonora, I do understand that it’s not easy for everyone to know how to give presentations, which is why I write stuff like this. You’re right though, sometimes a poor presentation will really make someone look bad. I’ve been to many where the person’s run out of time and still had half their slides to get through; that never looks good.

  9. Hi Mitch,

    This is my first time here and I enjoyed this piece about your experience in one presentation.

    Presentation is really an art and great opportunity. We should never abuse this great chance to say something worthwhile to influence or teach others.

    For me, great presentations must have three key components:
    1) Capturing and entrancing the audience – if someone nods off in your presentation you have failed!
    2) Provide the road map for the whole thing like you said. More importantly, stick to the road map.
    3) Express yourself personally within the content and outline of the presentation. Every presenter is different. People come not for the knowledge but also your style and influence.

    Presentation is something I really love and I have written much about it in my earlier post. If you have the time check it out and tell me what you think. Here’s the link

    1. Thanks for your comment Jimmy. Capturing your audience is indeed a big part of giving live presentations, and it can be hard to do, especially very early in the morning or after lunch. Still, an energetic speaker can overcome many obstacles, and being as personable as possible helps as well.

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