New player at Vox Media and former Washington Post political columnist Ezra Klein simplified, yet made interesting, the most complex policy issues. That "explainer approach" catapulted him to media stardom. Here is the coverage of his most recent moves in Tech Crunch.
Not that simplification is anything new. Aesop used it in his fables. Jesus Christ leveraged it in his parables. Warren Buffett gained investor trust through a no-nonsense folksy style.
The rub is that anxiety, both our own and our clients', tells us that we should keep everything complex. That extends from presentation of scientific data to a discussion of the defense strategy in "U.S. v. Martoma." We assume that will showcase how smart we all are. How valuable the material is. And how needed we are as experts.
So, what does it take to break away from being the smartest kids in the conversation to a regular old explainer? Here are some tips:
Focus on the audience. That shifts our preoccupation with our own ego to their desperate need to understand the material. The best public speakers never use a set text but create their delivery based on reading the faces in the audience.
Don't plan outcomes. Mindfulness, which is so hot including in Silicon Valley, trains us to be in the now. We are totally absorbed in explaining X. That's plenty to be doing. We are not half in the future envisioning ourselves getting a ton of business or ongoing media attention from this speech, article or opinion-editorials.
Find feedback. That input might be as basic as not many people coming up to us after the talk. Don't ignore that. Or it could be one email from one person who thanks us for finally making clear why letting the rage rip feels so satisfying but is so damaging to health.
Our little universe is filled with examples of creatures who put the effort into explaining and are rewarded with success. We should analyze what they are doing, how they are doing it and how they get better and better at doing all that. Through his facial gestures and body language my animal companion Lee K. lets me know that a three-hour timeframe was the maximum I could toil away at writing and ignore him. He has learned to reinforce that in a very graphic manner.