A hidden assumption in how the world works came up yesterday at a startup pitch event. More than once. It goes like this…
When you are the speaker, someone introduces you, and at that moment the audience presumes/assumes that you are an expert in whatever topic you’ve been introduced to present.
You remain an expert in the eyes of the audience until either you say something that an audience member doesn’t agree with (in which case your credibility is gone for that one person) or when your answer to a Q&A question makes your lack of knowledge evident to the whole room, leaving you walking off stage as a clear non-expert.
This is a key reason why “less is more” when it comes to public talks. The more you say, the higher the odds you show your lack of knowledge. The more detail you provide, the higher the odds someone in the audience misunderstands your facts, figures or point, leaving you diminished in credibility.
The solution to this is twofold:
First, practice your brevity. Iterate and practice your presentations so that you can convey ideas clearer, using fewer words and less time. This is a skill you can improve with practice.
Second, when answering questions, answer to the “top” of your knowledge. That is, go ahead and use whatever knowledge you have to answer the question, but do not go above and beyond your own knowledge. Do not guess. Do not make up an answer. And certainly do not lie. Step past your knowledge and someone might call you out, or someone might misunderstand, or you simply might make yourself look foolish, breaking the assumption of expertise.
Remember, you begin as the world renown expert on your own plans, and assumed an expert in your field. The audience will give you the benefit of the doubt until you do or say something to break that assumption.
Some hidden assumptions are best left hidden.
Related podcast: Step #30 – Time