Knowledge you learn. Wisdom you earn. When someone asks me about how they can improve their presentations, I sometimes use this phrase. I heard this when I first tried to speak in front of a corporate audience. Let me explain.
When I was in the 8th grade, I decided that I would study computer science in college. I did that because I could work with machines and not people. While I didn’t know the word, I figured out that I was an introvert. The idea that I could work with machines and not people was amazing to me. When I decided to change from programming computers, I was asked to teach customers about software I had written. The idea unnerved me! I needed to learn how to speak and teach in front of a group. I asked a co-worker about how to get better. His response was quite simple.
“You just have to do it, Bob. You can learn from books and classes about how to speak and teach but until you actually stand up in front of a group and try it, you won’t understand. Knowledge you can learn, but wisdom you must earn”.
How wise he was! Over the years, I’ve figured out how to earn speaking wisdom through a 3-step process. While I initially thought that all I needed to do was learn how to speak, I realized there is a process to follow to earn the wisdom.
I thought this would be the hardest step when in fact it really is the easiest. There’s no reason why we can’t learn anything we want. Obtaining knowledge is generally no more than a few keystrokes and mouse clicks away. Here are just a few of the resources we can use to gain knowledge about any subject, including speaking.
Learning has become so easy that now it has become a procrastination mechanism! Before we start doing something, we delay by saying, “I just need to learn a bit more before I get going”. We go to Google and the next thing you know we’ve spent yet another week “learning more” about what we want to do. Don’t let learning be a delay mechanism. Create your presentation and get to the next two steps below. Start doing something with what you’ve learned.
Rehearse (Deeper Knowledge)
Before delivering any speech or presentation, you need to rehearse it. There are 3 steps to a successful rehearsal. They are
I’ve written about this before in a previous blog post. By doing this kind of rehearsal, you will learn more about what works for you and what doesn’t. Verbal rehearsal lets you hear yourself and find out what words go together. Rehearsing in front of someone allows you to get feedback about whether what you are presenting makes sense. Watching the video of your rehearsal shows you how you are being seen. This is the deeper knowledge that you need to get before you earn the wisdom.
Wisdom comes from doing. When you deliver your presentation, you are applying what you’ve learned. It’s here that you really earn the wisdom. It’s the “been there, done that” portion. When you’ve done the delivery, then you truly know if what you have learned is valuable or not. Wisdom attaches value to the knowledge you’ve gained.
While my focus is helping technical experts communicate at the level of their audience, these 3 steps can be used by ANYONE to gain expertise in any speaking situation. We think that if we learn enough we will be successful, however, it’s only in the delivery that we finally earn the wisdom that we can draw on in the future. Knowledge is good, but it’s wisdom that makes us great. I believe that wisdom is applied knowledge. This will set you apart from other speakers who haven’t done the work to earn the wisdom.