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Welcome to the voxgig newsletter for event speakers August 24th, 2018.

“You are suffering from the curse of knowledge when you know things that the other person does not and you have forgotten what it’s like to not have this knowledge.” This is the simplest explanation I’ve come across for the phenomenon called the curse of knowledge (here’s the source.) The phenomenon was first identified by economists but it applies to every area of human endeavor.

It’s certainly true that knowledge can be a curse, especially in the public speaking game, where putting yourself in the listeners’ shoes is so crucial to success. I’ve learned that I suffer from the curse of knowledge and I try to avoid it when I’m communicating. Yet research tells us that even when we are aware that we are subject to this cognitive bias, we are unable to counteract it.

So what can we, as public speakers, do about it? Well, the first step, as in many things, is awareness. Even if we can’t completely rid ourselves of the curse, acknowledging that we, like all humans, are subject to it will do a lot to help us put ourselves in the same boat as our audience.

There are also some practical things you can do when preparing a speech or presentation:

  • Don’t make assumptions about your listeners’ level of knowledge. Instead, ask them. You can do this at the start of your talk, by simply asking for a show of hands or posing a few questions. Even better, consult the talk organizer well in advance about the audience’s prior knowledge. That way, you can pitch your entire talk at the right level.
  • Don’t use phrases like “As you know” or “We’re all familiar with…”. Anyone listening to you who does not know these things will instantly feel alienated.
  • Use concrete language. When we have knowledge, we can easily stray into abstract territory in our language. Just look at any corporate mission statement. These statements are backed up by vast troves of knowledge, but that doesn’t often carry through into the statements themselves.
  • A very good way of making sure that we use mostly concrete language is to tell stories. Stories are based on actual actions and words. Those of you who follow this newsletter regularly know that I’m obsessed with stories as a communication tool! This is yet another area where they are useful.

To summarize: we can’t escape the curse of knowledge, but we can minimize it, and awareness is the first step.

– Richard





Voxgig Podcast

Coming Soon… 

I am delighted to announce that  voxgig is starting a podcast series! The title of the series is ‘Fireside with voxgig’. In each podcast, I’ll be interviewing leading experts from the events industry.  The aim is to deliver high quality insights, valuable public speaking tips and enjoyable personal success stories, all in a relaxed, informal and chatty style. Keep an eye out here for the first podcast in the series, coming soon. 

Speaker Profile

Guy Andefors on stage standing at podium

How to overcome the curse of knowledge and grow your business

Guy Andefors

If you’re an expert in your field, you may forget that the terminology you use daily is not readily understood by everyone around you. We tend to take for granted the knowledge we possess and forget what it was like to have not had that information. In his talk, Guy explains what “the curse of knowledge” is and demonstrates ways to overcome it. While his talk is focused on growing business, the two points he highlights are relevant to the podium and everyday life.

Learn from the Best

The importance of knowing your audience and speaking context
Matt Abrahams

This is a great explanation of the curse of knowledge and how you can avoid it.  Your audience can only enjoy your talk if they understand it.

Tell me…

What is your biggest challenge as an event speaker?

This newsletter is for you. I want it to resonate with you.

So go ahead, hit reply, and tell me what you want to read about. Or email me at richard@voxgig.com. You can tweet too: @voxgig.

I’ll address the most pressing issues in each edition.

Book of the Week

Book cover image for Present! A Techie's guie to Public Speaking, other than the text there is a microphone on the front.

Present! A Techie’s Guide to Public Speaking

Poornima Vijayashanker (Goodreads Author),

Karen Catlin

A tech speaker needs every advantage to avoid creating a barrier between her/himself and the audience. Present! gives you all the right tools to create your talk, connect with the audience and enjoy the experience.

Blog Post

Are You Suffering From the Curse of Knowledge?

Ludvig Sunstrom

When you suffer from the curse of knowledge you assume that other people know the things that you do, and this cognitive bias causes you to believe that people understand you a lot better than they really do.




Three Conferences


WordCamp Kochi 2018

WordCamp Kochi 2018

WordPress global experts will converge upon South India to discuss WordPress development, security, design and more in an informal setting. With over 300 attendees expected, the opportunities to share knowledge, discuss ideas and network are plenty. With some planning, you’ll be able to enjoy the sites of Kochi, from shopping, beaches, tourist attractions and foodie adventures!


Full Stack Fest

Full Stack Fest

Are you ready for a week-long, inspiring ultimate conference retreat? Full Stack Fest caters to curious developers who want to gaze into the future of front-end and back-end development. This language-agnostic event is divided into two parts with a gap day in between. That gives you time to explore Barcelona with your friends and family! Is that a suitcase by your desk?


JavaDay Ecuador

JavaDay Ecuador

The Java community comes together to bring you JavaDay Ecuador in a city built on the foundations of an ancient Incan city, high in the Andean foothills. Over 21 leading Java programmers share their knowledge of the ecosystem, covering topics that include JVM languages, Java Enterprise JEE or Jakarta EE, MicroProfile, JavaScript, mobiles, containers, Kubernetes and cloud. With three tracks to choose from, including beginner and real-life cases tracks, you’ll leave with a bounty of Java knowledge.




CFP Calendar

These are the CFP deadline dates and submission pages.

Speaker Training

Do you speak at conferences? Want to learn how to give the very best talks? Or are you just starting out and want to overcome the fear of speaking on stage?
We are running speaker training workshops in Dublin, Ireland and London, U.K. over the coming months.

There is a 10% OFF early bird discount.

To find out more follow the links below.

Public speaking with Debbie Forster

London, UK – Thursday October 18, 2018 | More Details

Giving great talks with Russ Miles

London, UK – Thursday November 8, 2018 | More Details




A favour…

Can I ask you for a favour? If you enjoy this newsletter, and if you find it useful, please consider recommending it to a friend who is learning to give technical talks, or who aspires to do so. I meet so many cool programmers who have brilliant things to share with the world—that’s you!

Please help me to improve this newsletter – I’d love to hear your suggestions! You can email me directly at richard@voxgig.com. You can tweet too: @voxgig. Thank you so much for reading!

A special thanks and shout out to TammyCora, and David for helping to make this newsletter even better!


Thank you! Please let me know what you think!