Think you’re ready to be a media star?
Take the ultimate media-readiness challenge. It’s the one thing that you absolutely, no exceptions, must be able to do in order to kill it on TV or in print.
Be able to explain what you do and why it matters—to a fifth grader.
Here’s why: Fifth graders are bright, inquisitive, and skeptical, have no context for your niche, don’t understand your jargon, and have a lot competing for their attention.
You have one minute or they’re moving on—and that’s being generous.
…Sounds a lot like your average producer.
The perfect media expert can break what they do down into terms anyone can understand. They know how to connect the dots to make the problems they solve universal. And they raise the stakes just enough to grab people’s attention, and are engaging, practical, and relatable enough to keep it.
So, can you explain what you do to a fifth grader? Here’s a few tips.
First things first, jargon is a definitive no-no: It will quickly isolate anyone outside of your field, when what you want most is to connect.
For example, “I provide customized growth solutions to private, entrepreneur-led tech companies,” sounds like you’re speaking French. Or Dothraki. It’s total nonsense.
“I help young but established tech companies find the money they need to hit their next, big growth goal—like launching and developing a new product.”
Now we get it!
Connect what you do to what they know
Remember when your parents had to give you the birds and bees talk? Your job is to give us the birds and bees of your topic—using what we’ve probably seen or experienced to explain a complicated, totally foreign, and abstract concept—without making it awkward or uncomfortable (looking at you, Mom). And much like the perfect birds and bees talk, you should:
- Use clear metaphors and examples to connect what you do to something I know. How does the problem you solve manifest itself in smaller ways in everyone’s life? Where might I have seen it play out before? Relate the problem you solve to something they’ve encountered, even metaphorically, in order to help make what you do stick.
- Get as specific as possible. Much like “anything a bathing suit covers” creates more questions than it answers, the more specific and simple your language, the more likely your audience is to grasp it.
- Keep it light without compromising sincerity. Injecting humor and levity can make complicated, dense, or heavy subjects more accessible. But keeping it light is not the same thing as making light of your subject: We want your sincerity, high stakes, and vulnerability—just with a dash of humor to put us at ease.
Enthusiasm is contagious
Tell someone you want to talk about the wonders of science, and most people start counting sheep. But Bill Nye? There’s an entire generation of kids-turned-adults who would follow that guy into the jaws of the very polar bears he’s trying to save from global warming.
Neil Degrasse Tyson? Even Key and Peele wrote sketches about him! Think about that: A sketch comedy show lampooned a physicist and were confident everyone would know who he was. And we did!
Why? Bill Nye and Tyson are passionate. Their enthusiasm and love for what they do is so infectious, it makes people care. They’re not even on a mission to berate their audience into caring, or even to convince them why they should care. They just dial the complexity of what they do down to a 1 and the passion with which they share it up to a 10 (maybe an 11). And that makes us care!
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