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FILWP Presenting Tip #007: Your audience members probably aren’t idiots


It always fascinates me (and have an internal giggle) when a the speaker assumes that their audience know nothing about their subject.  Sometimes they would even take a lot of time and effort to explain a concept that the entire room is already very familiar with, or explain the concepts as if to small children who really do not understand a lot.  (If you present to children, remember they they also know ‘stuff’!)

Since it’s an easy (and costly) mistake to make, FILWP Presenting Tip #007 will help you avoid it.  As all the other tips in the series, it’s very easy to implement with lots (and lots) of benefits for you and your audiences.


Some speaker might very well  feel arrogant and superior, and intentionally and consciously want to convey that to their audience.  Presenting with that attitude won’t create an emotional state in the audience that is conducive to learning, and, of course, if you’d like to present that way – go ahead, even though, in my experience, these type of speakers are few and far between

This behaviour usually comes from a speaker who is nervous about speaking and/or so passionate about their topic that they do not for a moment consciously consider that others in the audience might already know what they know, or more.


Whatever the weather and whatever your intentions, assuming that the audience isn’t quite as smart as you or treating them in any condescending way has dire consequences.  Few people like being treated like idiots and if you treat your audience like they are, chances are they’re not going to like it, and they’re going to rebel or withdraw – either consciously or unconsciously, overtly or covertly.


The solution, as always, is very, very simple. 

It also goes hand in hand with one of the fundamental principles of Fall in Love with Presenting, and that is to continually interact with your audience. That way you show that you respect them, you engage them every step of the way, and you might learn a thing or two yourself

Here are a few practical examples:

  • Instead of assuming that no-one has heard of someone or read a particular book, ask, “Has anyone heard of so-and-so or read the book ‘ABC’ by ‘so and so??”
  • Instead of assuming that no-one has heard of a particular word, technique, abbreviation or concept, ask, “How many of you have heard of XYZ?”
  • Instead of assuming that everyone remembers something that happened, ask, ‘How many of you remember xyz from a couple of years ago?”

When you stop assuming and actually check what your audience does and doesn’t know, you can honour what they already know and get the opportunity to provide the information that some may need to move on (else you’ll leave them behind.)


Now we’re talking…  or more to the point, now you’re starting to turn a monologue into a conversation.  

This will make your presentation infinitely more interesting for your audience and a lot easier for you.  They now feel part of the presentation and actively contribute energy to it instead of just you and your lonesome self up there on stage talking to them.