Writing is about changing reader’s ideas

And other nuggets of wisdom from Larry McEnerney, Director of the University of Chicago’s Writing Program. Including:

  • Nobody cares about inside of your head
  • Writing is participation in the conversation of people who decide what is knowledge
  • “New” doesn’t make anything valuable without value
  • Writing sets up from instability (we know something but…) and cost/benefit (…the resolution will get us something of value)
  • Writing is done for the particular reading community, to solve their problem, or problem they care about
  • The definition of the problem and solution should be articulated in coded language, accepted in the given community
  • Simplest example is to start by “wow, are you smart people, you did so much for the community, but there is this little thing that is wrong”

Presenting: solve listener’s problems

Stealing this from Scott Berkun and his latest book.

When presenting anything, to anyone, figure out what problem they have. And then solve it.

As Nathan Kontny puts is:

Nobody cares until they have an empty box in their head

Why are you presenting and talk about A when the audience wants to hear about B? Well, for example, because A is the only thing you know how to talk about?…

If the audience of undergrads is looking for a lab rotation or research experience, don’t tell them about textbook molecular biology you are working on. Tell them how your day looks, and how the lab space looks

If the audience wants to know whether your microscope is good for their problems, don’t give lecture on physics of light. Show images of samples and experiments that come out.

If the audience wants to go home and be left alone… present the absolute minimum amount that will satisfy your supervisor, and let everyone free. Seriously, everyone loves when meetings end early

Q. What if you get to Q&A sooner, but there aren’t any questions?

A. Everyone goes to get a beer! Seriously, if there are no questions it means all questions were answered or the audience isn’t interested. In both cases it’s time to go.

Q&A from Toughest Public Speaking Situations, Scott Berkun