Knowledge sharing is a cornerstone of human civilization. A concept as old as time, passing knowledge from generation to generation allows for stories to be remembered, lessons to be learned, and innovation to be pursued by understanding the successes and failures of others. Some share through tribal knowledge, passing along lessons through verbal communication and hands-on teaching, where others will share things through written word and documentation. It’s all important in the continual education of community members and progression of modern society.
Our sourcing community has a solid foundation in sharing knowledge. We could refer to ourselves as “open sourcers” because we understand the idea that a rising tide raises all ships – everyone who participates, including the person sharing, benefits from knowledge share. An essential component of knowledge sharing is being able to do so efficiently and in a manner that will resonate and be remembered by community members.
Understanding Differences in Learning and Knowledge Sharing Methods
Sharing and learning knowledge go hand-in-hand. There are a few main ways in which individuals learn:
- Visually: using pictures, images, and reading to understand
- Verbally: using listening and recitation to understand
- Physically: using physical touch and hands-on practice to understand
While the numbers vary, here is a reasonably good summary of knowledge retention by learners:
- 90% of what they learn when they teach someone else/use immediately.
- 75% of what they learn when they practice what they learned.
- 50% of what they learn when engaged in a group discussion.
- 30% of what they learn when they see a demonstration.
- 20% of what they learn from audio-visual.
- 10% of what they learn when they’ve learned from reading.
- 5% of what they learn when they’ve learned from lecture.
Individuals excel in learning differently depending on which method is most comfortable. In the same manner, individuals excel in sharing their knowledge creatively. From the retention numbers above, you can see that teaching others leads to higher levels of retention. Therefore, sharing your knowledge is the best way to learn and retain knowledge for yourself.
Over the years, I’ve had opportunities to not only write and present information for our sourcing communities but also to make arrangements for others to write and present. I am currently a founding board member with the Sourcing 7 non-profit community in the Seattle area, an organization that provides free educational opportunities to Pacific Northwest-area recruiters and sourcers. I have also previously worked as the Editor for SourceCon and The Fordyce Letter with ERE Media, where I solicited writers for both publications and presenters for Fordyce Forum and SourceCon conferences. I’ve presented for many recruiting industry conferences and webinars and been published by both recruiting and non-recruiting publications.
I love both sharing and providing opportunities for others to share, but there are some differences in how each method may be well done and well received. That said, different people excel at different forms of communication. Just because someone is an excellent orator does not necessarily mean they write well. And just because someone writes excellent articles does not necessarily mean they are an articulate or captivating speaker. Occasionally you will come across individuals who are all-around gifted knowledge-sharers, but such individuals are not ordinary and often in very high demand.
Below are some things I have personally looked for and learned over the years to help knowledge sharing be as effective as possible. If one of your personal development goals involves any of the following areas, I encourage you to step outside of your comfort zone and challenge yourself to volunteer for a local speaking engagement or write an article to potentially be published.
Knowledge sharing in front of a live audience provides opportunities for live interaction, fielding in-the-moment questions, and viewing instant non-verbal feedback from an audience.
Effective presenters often share the following qualities:
- Quick thinking – while well-prepared, they can think, react, and adjust in the moment if things don’t go how they’ve planned.
- Engaging and captivating storytellers – good presenters share relatable moments with their audiences and capture attention through personal experiences, anecdotes, and retainable concepts.
- Energetic – even with a dry topic, a good presenter will deliver a presentation with positive energy that the audience feeds off of.
- Summarization – a good presenter provides easy takeaways and topic summaries that their audience can remember and apply themselves.
When I talk to new presenters for our Sourcing 7 events in Seattle, I often advise them to craft their material in the same manner in which you’d pursue a science fair project. First, define the problem you want to solve, then develop a hypothesis, identify your variables, create and execute an experiment/procedure, collect data and analyze, and share your results and what you learned along the way. This is a simple and relatable way to present material, even if you’ve never done it before as an adult.
If you want to develop practical presentation skills, here are some considerations:
- Practice what you want to present – do it by yourself or in front of a spouse, partner, or trusted friend. Hearing yourself speak out loud can help you make adjustments to your content and delivery. This will also help you time your presentation, so you aren’t rushing to fit everything in or dragging on to fill your entire time slot.
- Make your material easily relatable – fit “how to apply this into your workflow” components into your presentation and incorporate examples that will resonate with your audience
- Try to incorporate one interactive component – working an exercise into your presentation, where either all in attendance participate or a small handful demonstrate, helps to break up the potential monotony and keep people’s attention.
- End your presentation with a takeaway summary and action items – don’t expect your audience to summarize your content for you, make it easy and do it for them. This also ends on a memorable note, and increases the likelihood what you’ve shared will be practiced and/or applied immediately (75-90% retention) vs. just written down in a notebook that will likely be filed away (5% retention).
Knowledge sharing through writing provides a way to preserve your knowledge for posterity, and can allow for ongoing discussion and development, either written or verbal, with those who read the content.
My mother was a middle school English teacher, and when I was a teenager I used to help her correct her students’ grammar papers. I also kept a poetry journal and used to write short stories and plays when I was a kid. Perhaps that’s why my preferred method of sharing is through writing. While I am willing and able to present, standing up in front of an audience to talk is one of my least favorite places to be; I am more of a behind-the-scenes kind of person and have developed a love of documentation.
Effective writers often share the following qualities:
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- Concept development – good writers have a knack for both detailing and summarizing complex concepts. This can be accomplished in a brief post or a lengthier article for more complex topics.
- Proper writing methods mixed appropriately with vernacular – relatability is very important when writing; if an author is overly proper, or overly casual, they run the risk of losing large audience segments. A good writer understands an appropriate mix.
- Good grammar – not much is more irritating than reading and then wanting to share a great article, only to find it riddled with spelling errors and grammatical problems. Good writers don’t simply rely on spell check; they proofread and have an editor’s help.
- Engaging and captivating storytellers – good writers capture attention through personal experiences, anecdotes, and retainable concepts.
- Summarization – a good writer provides easy takeaways and topic summaries that their readers can easily apply themselves.
When I worked for ERE Media, I received articles from all kinds of writers. Some of my authors had been writing for years, where others I had to really encourage to step out of their comfort zone to write about things they were doing well. My role as editor was to help amplify their voices and make their material legible and relatable to our readers. The best writers with whom I worked were ones who wrote from personal experience and received feedback and edits with humility. Editing is an important part of writing well, and being open to suggestions and improvements to your writing is key to growing into an excellent writer.
If you want to develop effective writing skills, here are some considerations:
- Read other contributions to publications for which you’d like to write – look at the ones with the most comments or the most clicks, and study their structure and content. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. (I love to write long, thought-provoking articles because of how amazing Glen Cathey’s are!)
- Outline your article idea before you start writing – this will give you a running start with developing concepts and tying everything together in a summary
- “Bookend” your article with interest and action – grab attention for the topic you want to cover at the beginning and summarize your points at the end, with a call-to-action or a request for audience sharing of examples. Grab their interest at the start and request action at the end.
- Balance entertainment and logic – “fluff” pieces are all emotion and no substance; “dry” pieces provide little entertainment value, even though they may be filled with excellent data. Find the balance between fact-sharing and song-and-dance.
- When you finish writing, leave your article for 24 hours minimum, then go back and read it from start to finish. Sometimes your state of mind while writing can create a bias in your viewpoint or writing style. Make adjustments as appropriate, and have at least one other person read it before publishing.
My final piece of advice for knowledge sharing is this: start somewhere, and be humble as you learn and grow. Nobody became a fantastic sourcer overnight, so you’re not going to be an awesome speaker or writer in a flash, either. The common bond that everyone who speaks and everyone who writes share is that we all started somewhere, we didn’t give up and kept trying, and we learn from our mistakes. Keep in mind, as well, if you’re already a great writer and now want to speak at events, you may not be a great presenter right off the bat. Same with writing – just because you’ve given well-received presentations doesn’t mean your writing is going to be great at first. Be humble and take constructive feedback how it was intended – to help you improve.
Many of the writers you know and love started with their blogs, and many of the speakers who inspire you today started with small, local events. Take your first step and offer to produce some content for a local professional community. Share your knowledge locally, and the sky’s the limit from there. Good luck – I hope to see presentations and read articles from many of you shortly.