Nov
13

Never Overestimate the Knowledge of Your Audience Robert Priddy

Assuming your audience knows everything you know is a sure pathway to embarrassment, frustration and failure. 

This is something I've said for years, and I've had it misunderstood on occasion to mean incorrectly, that I believe other people aren't smart.  On the contrary, I believe most of the people I work with are more intelligent than I am. However, I don't believe they all have the same knowledge base that I possess.

I would encourage you to take that same position. You will likely deal, in the nonclinical world, with very intelligent people. However, they will not possess your same knowledge base, your educational exposure or your context for decision-making.

Therefore, never assume your audience is operating on your plane. On a practical level, I coach my clients to appreciate that most conversations, most presentations, most interactions whether inter-personal or in groups can always be elevated to represent a higher level of knowledge. You can use abbreviations because you see everyone expects you to say HIPAA rather than Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or you may skip a couple of slides, telling your audience it's obvious the background content of those slides is unnecessary for the group.

It is best if you have a clear understanding of your audience's subject knowledge. In some settings you can simply ask the group to tell you their knowledge level. There is nothing wrong with asking, "Tell me your background and experience with this..."  But when in doubt be prepared to communicate at different levels depending on their reaction... drowsy eyes or rapt, engaged attention.

As an aside, you might also consider the statement, never confuse intelligence with knowledge or knowledge with intelligence. Weigh your communications on the balance of whether it is predicated on knowledge or intelligence, and move forward from there.

If you'd like to learn more, don't hesitate to contact me for an initial Hallway Consult...

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