Daily Archives: May 31, 2017

What’s That?

I apologise in advance.

In the olden days, my former lecturer would describe the wackily short amount of time you would have to explain a problem and possible solution to an elected policymaker: 1 or 2 pages of A4 (scroll to the end).

More recently, I heard a ramped-up version of this pressure: the time it takes to walk them to their car (a variant on the ‘elevator pitch’ idea).

It’s not, enough, though, is it? We need more of a sense of the pressure we face to explain complicated concepts quickly and concisely to different audiences.

So, I suggest this example, borne out of my recent experience as granddad to a 13-month old baby who has reached the stage of pointing randomly at things and saying ‘what’s that?’.

pull along mouse xylophone

I tried and failed to explain that (a) it’s a wooden mouse playing a xylophone, on wheels, which moves when you pull the string along the floor, and (b) the funny thing is, you don’t see many mice playing the xylophone these days.

For this type of audience, there’s only time to reply ‘a toy’ (or, perhaps if you are thinking laterally, ‘would you like a biscuit’?).

So, the new test of conciseness is: what can you explain in the length of time between a child pointing to one thing and saying ‘what’s that’ and the same child pointing to another thing and saying ‘what’s that?’.

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