“The best way to be boring is to leave nothing out.” – Voltaire
Everyone flocks to listen to the expert speak.
The more impressive your credentials or title, the longer your training or experience, the more hours you have devoted to learning the arcane details of your craft or mulling the implications of the most esoteric research in your field, the more we want to learn from you; the master, the guru, the expert – and that’s the trap.
For implicit in that is the assumption that we want to know everything you know. Why else would we ask you to speak?
But whether your expertise is in industrial production management, behavioral economics or flower arranging, it’s impossible to fit everything you know into a one-day seminar, let alone a fifteen-minute presentation to the Rotary Club.
Voltaire was talking about telling a boring story, but it holds equally true for giving a boring, confusing or incomprehensible presentation. Trying to cram in everything just ensures that we will get nothing out of it.
We come to hear you not for the breadth of your knowledge, but for the quality of judgment that your knowledge, your experience and your training has given you.
Because you are the expert, you know enough to separate the essential from the irrelevant, the fundamental from the fashionable and the profound from the trivial. That’s why we come to you.
You can boil it down and distill the very essence of what we need to know, so start with that end in mind. What’s the one thing we need to hear, to understand and to remember? Work backwards from that, building the supporting scaffolding of logic, principle and fact that your time allows.
If you don’t think you’ll have more than enough time to pull that off, then reduce your ambitions until you do. You have the good judgment to make that decision. You’re the expert. You know what you can leave out.
That’s why we come to you.