It’s one thing to be a subject matter expert (SME) in a particular field and able to discuss it with colleagues; it’s quite another to communicate that subject matter to 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 (electrician) may get a stinger (extension cord) so the grips (production hands) can set 5-K (large production light) and a baby or a tweenie on a Gary Coleman (small lights on a small C-stand) in front of the pancake or half-apple (a small wooden box the talent or actor stands on) to get the martini (last shot) before magic hour (when outdoor light turns golden, usually about 20 minutes before sunset). Clear?

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 we 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 car.

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). 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. (Hello, Wilson.)

Your objective is not to impress, but to be understood.


MichaelDrake14_112x144x72Michael Drake is a media and presentation skills trainer who has worked as a radio and television news anchor, professional voice artist and narrator, and presenter. He has helped more than 4,000 individuals prepare for media interviews, improve their communications skills and overcome their fear of public speaking.