My 7-year-old granddaughter is a proud Daisy Scout. She loves the leaders and the girls in her troop, she loves working toward badges and her favorite GS cookie is Thin Mints (who doesn’t love these!). Every year, her troop hosts an international project. The Girls whose ages range from 6 years old to 18 years of age pick a country to focus on. Based on their various ages, each group has something about that country that they research and present.
To kick off the initiative, scout leaders asked the girls to invite anyone they knew from another country. I asked my granddaughter if she had anyone in mind. Yes, she said. Either her dad (who is from South America) or me (I’m from Pittsburgh). I guess to some Pittsburgh might be considered a foreign country.
“Not asking” feeds into assumptions.
Making assumptions doesn’t normally result in something as funny and adorable as Audrey’s comment about my origins. Assumptions can turn your brilliantly crafted presentation into bumpy delivery. I remember preparing for a sales presentation for a financial manager and his company. He gave me no indication for my presentation day that there would be any person other than himself in the room for the pitch. I did not ask. I assumed this would be the case.
Imagine my surprise as I was setting up to learn that there would be five other managers in the room to hear my presentation. I made several errors on that day. With five new people in the room, I had no information, no background about them. Their position in the company would be the lens through which they would be viewing my presentation. I hoped that I had components from each of their specialty areas throughout my presentation. I did not feel as prepared as I needed to be and that interfered with my confidence and the quality of my pitch.
Assumptions are communication shortcuts.
Assumptions are easy. But quality communication takes effort. It takes thoughtful listening (yep, it’s work), asking questions to clarify and ensure understanding, and a no-rush approach to the conversation.
Now I keep several check lists for every talk I have booked. For each talk (new or rebooked) I know the details about the organization, the event, and the audience. I use this information to develop my talk. This information allows me to be better prepared and more confident. By avoiding assumptions, I’m able to stay on solid ground and away from the slippery slope.