Don’t be intimidated by the level of prestige of your audience members. Just because a room is filled with C-level execs doesn’t mean they are collectively CEO of Everything. Speaking to a crowd of academics and researchers? Don’t cower before their gigantic brains. I’ve met plenty of PhDs that couldn’t find their backsides with both hands if they tried.*
No audience, regardless of their make-up, is the world’s brain trust. When we are putting ourselves out there to present about our own area of expertise and we’re staring down the barrel of hundreds of high-powered eyes, it’s easy to forget that.
Just remember: they chose YOU to speak in front of them, and they chose you for a reason. No event organizer picks a speaker because they want the speaker to fail and look like a fool. They chose you because you know more about their subject than they do.
And because you have deep knowledge about your subject, you might be surprised at just how little your audience knows about it. What seems basic to you might be rocket science to those CEOs.
You were chosen to speak to this high-powered crowd for a reason. You aren’t an Expert of Everything, and neither are they. You do, however, know your subject backwards and forwards, and that’s what they want to hear from you. Give it to them!
*No, I don’t believe that having a PhD automatically classifies you as an absent-minded twit. I’ve met many PhDs who have left me trembling in delight and admiration over both their intellect and wisdom. It takes all kinds to make a world…or a faculty.