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Assume the worst

Picture of james McGintyIt’s not exactly culture shock but they do things differently in America and I don’t just mean having pancakes with a fried breakfast.

It seems that there are things that everyone, except me, knows

Everyone automatically takes off shoes and belts at the body scanner in the airport.
Everyone knows that you pre pay for fuel at the interstate services.
Everyone knows that you have to leave your credit card as security if you sit at an outside table in a restaurant.

Twice today I was given directions via landmarks that I couldn’t possibly know, but the person giving the directions assumed that as they knew them then everyone else must.

One person got quite perturbed when I asked him for the necessary clarification to get from the hotel car park to my room. For him it was simple but for me it was complicated as I had to go through three separate buildings (it’s a BIG hotel). He couldn’t grasp that I just didn’t know where the first of his landmarks were.

I have looked back over some of my presentations and realised that occasionally (thankfully not too often) I have made assumptions about my client’s level of knowledge and consequently have started from the wrong the place.

I don’t believe that we should never assume, sometimes in lieu of facts it’s all you can do. If you find that you have to make assumptions, assume that people know nothing.

It’s relatively easy to leap forward if it turns out your audience are further ahead than you thought. It’s another matter to backtrack if they don’t have knowledge you assumed they had nd if your presentation is time limited you could be in big trouble.

So if you have to assume – Assume the worst – it can only get better.