Written by Lina Fenequito.
When it’s your turn in the spotlight, how will your message be communicated? Often, it takes the promise of a big opportunity to get us to rethink how we communicate our message and convey our ideas. But why wait until that opportune moment is right around the corner?
The time to start is now. And I have three tips that can help.
1. Evaluate your message
2. Simplify your message
3. Test your message
Recently, I was approached by the The History Channel to film a short interview about our Swap-O-Matic Project. The Swap-o-Matic, a unique vending machine that allows users to swap and trade in a fun, exciting way, was to be featured on a History Channel original series this coming spring. The series, called “All You Can Eat”, was looking to interview me for a particular episode about vending machines. Excited for this high-profile interest in our Swap-O-Matic Project, I happily accepted.
Yet, that excitement was short-lived, and quickly replaced by a feeling of dread. As much as I was delighted to find that a nationally-known tv channel would be featuring my project, my spotlight-hating self was also filled with the fear of having to “perform” in front of the camera. How would I look and sound? How would I come across? And, most importantly, how would the messages and ideas I hoped to convey be received?
Evaluate your message.
While the Swap-O-Matic is visually captivating, and its basic mechanics can be understood quickly, there are a lot of underlying ideas to it. By combining design and technology, we’ve taken the traditional notion of a vending machine and the act of swapping items and made it fun and memorable, as well as creating an alternative to today’s disposable economy. But in considering the History Channel audience and the nature of the show, we realized that many of the statements I had prepared were too wordy and lacked clarity. Long, complex statements that worked in written form and on our website wouldn’t translate into quick soundbites and tv clips. Ray and I looked at possible answers to the questions that the History Channel might ask, and decided we needed to simplify them for maximum impact.
Pare down your message.
Paring down and simplifying some of the answers to possible questions proved incredibly valuable. Think of your audience, and the time you’ll have to communicate with them. Since it was to be a short interview that would probably be edited for even shorter clips, I knew my complex answers needed to be quick and simple, but ultimately effective. One of the potential questions, “What do the Ample Hills Ice Cream Store and the Swap-O-Matic have in common”, which often produces a long, thoughtful answer, was pared down to “Three things…community, fun, and sustainability!” While I had a sentence or two to elaborate each point, the answer was quickly stated in the first six words.
Test your message
Has my, and your own, evaluation and simplification ultimately been effective? Well, there is only one way to find out. As designers, we are constantly testing our work and revising them as results become available. While the History Channel would be a great chance to really test out my message, it wasn’t something to tackle without some smaller-scale tests first. So Ray spent the next day intermittently peppered me with questions, to see how well my answers held up and communicated the message.
Even with all of the preparation, though, the interview proved to be particularly stressful for me. While I’ve been interviewed before, this was the first for a major TV appearance. I was slightly unnerved by the large, imposing camera, five extra crew members and a highly energetic producer who, while extremely friendly and enthusiastic about the project, had the most distracting practice of mouthing every word I said. But, armed with my simplified and well-rehearsed answers that I’d tested out a bit, I put my best foot forward at ensuring that my message and ideas were presented well.
We all will watch the final result come spring, and use the results to shape the preparation for future opportunities. And that’s the beauty of this and the design process in general. It’s always evolving and changing!