Some years ago, I found myself with a medical situation that perplexed a specialist, so he sent me to another specialist.

Three months later, the problem was still unresolved — and didn’t seem like there was even a medical term for it.

Will I ever recover? I asked.

“If I knew, I’d be retired in Florida,” was his answer.

That’s probably a common joke among physicians at parties, but certainly not the answer I was hoping for.

As a social scientist, I wanted to get to the bottom of it — I want to know all about causes, consequences, literature review on the matter, statistics, and more — and whether this condition had been extensively written about in medical literature, or if it was a new, or increasingly common, phenomenon.

I recovered — and still have no clue what “the problem” was, or what caused it.

By then, the doctors no longer considered it “the problem.” To them, it had become “my” problem.

As specialists in our respective fields, we often find ourselves swept up in the complexities, terminology and hair-splitting issues that we believe only those in the field know, or care, about.

We forget that what we know is just a minutiae of all of the knowledge in the world — and there’s not much value to what we know, if we can’t simplify the issues, complexities, or terminology for our audience.

In my classes, I always remind students that the real test of what they really know is not what’s in their head or what they put on paper for me, but whether they can explain the issues, complexities and terminology to their grandmother — or their five-year-old cousin — at a level their audience can comprehend, and in a way that holds their interest.

If your audience can’t grasp what you’re saying, or why they should care, it becomes your problem, not theirs.

You’ve probably taken high school or college math courses with brilliant mathematicians and professors, but what they’re saying seems to be beyond you. You probably wrote off math as “not my cup of tea (or coffee).”

Unfortunately, when you’re in that lecture theater or conference room for your viva voce, to defend your PhD dissertation, or to present at a conference, job interview or grant presentation, you are the one — no matter how brilliant you are — that has to make your audience understand what it is you’re saying… and why they should care.

And if they don’t understand — or care — what your expertise is, it’s your problem, not theirs.

The seemingly innocuous but absolutely dreaded question, “WHY should we care?,” is guaranteed to spark off a flood of tears at any Doctoral oral defense or viva; my formidable Doctoral Adviser recalls a heavily pregnant student almost going into labor when asked that at her defense.

Why should you care? Because (for a host of reasons, including if you claim to be a specialist) you should.

Bring what you know to your audience’s level… and show why they should care.

Don’t Lose Your Audience.

(My one-on-one mentoring program coaches and prepares you for that important viva, oral defense, tenure-track presentation, grant interview, and more.)

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