As a public speaker / facilitator / instructor, I help people make positive change for their businesses and lives, and at the foundation of each presentation should always be an explanation (why, how, etc.). Marketers and public relations people persuade the public to buy their product or candidate, and underneath that message is hopefully a clear explanation. Anytime we walk into a meeting to share an idea, we can focus on the exciting application of the idea without giving an adequate explanation of the idea itself. In other words, most of us need help doing a better job of explaining. And that's where The Art Of Explanation by Lee LeFever steps in.
LeFever understands that there is a gap, which we can easily underestimate, between our specialized (and often highly technical) knowledge of our subject, and our audience's grasp. This "curse of knowledge" causes us to spend hours on a presentation, only to deliver it to a disconnected audience. He shares a few models and templates for constructing better explanations, which I found so helpful in articulating my own "elevator pitch" and "video script."
Want to see what I came up with after applying the template? Here are three versions of "what I do for a living":
- Twitter description (140 characters or less):
I help busy professionals present like professional speakers.
- Elevator pitch (30-60 seconds long):
The typical professional gives presentations often enough to develop crippling anxiety, but not often enough to present well every time. I help these professionals learn and practice a handful of fundamental skills to nail every presentation with clarity and confidence. Because we present casually through everyday interaction, these same presentation skills improve all verbal communication.
- Video script (3 minutes max):
Meet Jane. She is a respected engineer who is asked, about twice a year, to accompany her firm's sales team to client presentations as a technical expert.
Jane, who is friendly and approachable but shy, spends most days with her small team of engineers. She feels anxious about these client presentations because she is working with clients she’s never met before, and because so much time elapses between presentations that each one feels unfamiliar and risky.
Jane tells a friend about her upcoming presentation, and her friend recommends a public speaking coach. Jane thinks coaches are just for athletes, or high-powered executives, but she calls anyway. The public speaking coach shows Jane that just a handful of skills underpin every successful presentation. Over several sessions, Jane learns the models and practices these skills until she feels prepared, confident, and even excited for her next client presentation!
As an unexpected bonus, Jane starts to see her everyday interactions with her small engineering team differently. She applies the public speaking models and skills to informal interactions and finds that she communicates more clearly, and gets better results.
Hooray for Jane!
If you have an important message to craft, and you'd like to explore ways to do it better, pick up this book and give it a try. I've already shared one of the templates with a small group of cohorts who are using it to improve how they communicate about their small businesses.