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Make Sure You Are Understood

TwoTalkingUnderstoodIt’s one thing to discuss a particular subject with colleagues as a subject matter expert (SME); it’s quite another to discuss that subject with someone who does not have your background or professional expertise in that particular area and have them fully comprehend what you are talking about.

In every field of interest there is jargon, and typically a fair number of acronyms; we use them every day. I sometimes think the military could not function without its acronyms.
In the world of film and video production the juicer may get a stinger so the grips can set a 5-K and a baby or a tweenie on a Gary Coleman in front of the pancake or half-apple to get the martini before magic hour. Clear?

In this case the juicer is the electrician, stinger is an extension cord, grips are production hands, a 5-K is a very powerful production light, a baby or tweenie is a very small light sometimes set as a practical (a desk lamp in the background), Gary Coleman is a small tripod C-stand on which lights are mounted, a pancake or half-apple is a small wooden box the talent or actors stand on to give them more height or elevation in the shot (Alan Ladd, the famous cowboy actor of the 1940s and 1950s used these extensively to give a boost to his 5’4” height, especially in face-to-face shots with his leading lady); the martini is the last shot of the day and magic hour is that 20-minute period just before sunset when the sunlight paints the surroundings in a beautiful golden hue – leading to a magical shot.

Television news stories could be a package, a VO-SOT, a live-shot, or even a look-live. Everyone get that? Unless you’ve worked in television news, probably not. The “voh-sot” (VO-) is the voice-over – the narrative the anchor reads over the video (B-roll) of the story, which then cuts to the sound-on-tape (-SOT) – the full audio and video of the person being interviewed on camera. As a reporter I would also do a lock-out – the sign-off at the end of the story. I’m Michael Drake, for Channel (whatever) News. Yet mention lock-out to a regular person and they will think you lost your keys and cannot get into your house.

It’s the same when doing a radio or television interview, whether it’s the traditional stand-up (where the reporter stands in front of you typically with her back to the camera, asks a question and then turns the microphone toward you) or an in-set piece (where you are live on the news set with the news anchor). We used these terms every day in the newsroom, and naturally they were quite clear to us. However, mention these to the typical person and you will probably be met with a blank stare.

In any discussion, especially during a media interview the idea is to communicate – to be understood.

So always remember you are talking to the typical viewer – not a colleague who has your same level of understanding of the subject. Talk to the interviewer as you would to your spouse, your Aunt Emma across the dining room table, or your neighbor across the backyard fence. If you do use a bit of jargon, immediately explain what it is.
Your objective is not to impress, but to be understood.

Michael Drake is a speech coach and presentation skills trainer who has given presentations to audiences ranging from 20 to 2500 and has helped more than 4,000 individuals improve their communications skills and overcome their fear of public speaking.

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