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Explain what you do for work this Christmas lunch

“What is it exactly that you do?”

Do you dread this question at family gatherings?

Personally, I would love it if someone in my extended family asked me. But they hardly ever do.

Why not?

Maybe, they don’t understand what a media trainer does.

Maybe, they’re embarrassed to ask what a media trainer is.

Maybe, they’re not interested.

It doesn’t help that my cousins all do very easy-to-explain jobs: GP, school nurse, cattle station manager.

My family preferred it when I was a TV reporter. Then they could see what I was doing every night on the telly.

Some of us have jobs that are hard to describe to anyone outside our field, so we give up. It doesn’t stop us being a little resentful though, that no one seems to understand or appreciate what we do.


But as Taylor Swift sings: ‘It’s me. I’m the problem. It’s me.’


If we can’t explain to Uncle Larry what we do, clearly and succinctly, how would we handle a media interview, speak confidently on a public panel or pitch for a grant or new investors?


Learning to describe the benefits of your work to a lay audience can help you:

  • attract clients, customers, investors, staff

  • boost your career profile

  • celebrate your hard work and successes

  • combat misinformation about your industry

  • inform and educate people

  • change public perceptions

  • win grants and awards

  • influence policy makers

  • inspire the next generation?


However, it’s not WHAT do we do that’s the important question.

It’s WHY do you do it? That’s the real question.

It’s not only that you study microbes in Antarctica; it’s that you’re searching for answers to climate change.

It’s not that you are just researching AI in transport; it’s that you want to design more liveable cities.

It’s not only that you’re breaking new ground in gene therapy: it’s that you’re saving children’s lives.

It’s certainly not that you work in B2B systems analytics; it’s that you help global companies communicate with their staff and customers more easily.

This year I’ve had the privilege of training academics from UNSW and Sydney University in media interview skills, presenting and pitching techniques.


These men and women are some of the country’s leading experts in medicine, health, economics, law and engineering.

While they’re all clearly brilliant, many struggled to tell their stories simply and in layperson’s terms, until I showed them how to create key messages using simple but effective structures and then they practiced their messages during on-camera interviews with me.


As a rule of thumb, if your 14-year-old niece or nephew can’t understand what you’re talking about, cut the jargon and use plain English.


Try talking about the benefits of what you do rather than the features or the daily minutiae.

For example:

As a media trainer I help experts confidently share their work and knowledge with a wider audience through interviews with journalists and in public presentations.  

Why it matters: Now more than ever we need credible, authoritative, and diverse voices to combat misinformation and set the record straight.  


So, this Christmas, have fun practicing your spiel on the family. Don’t let the turkeys get you down. Don’t even wait for someone to ask what you do. Tell them. Clearly, concisely and in plain English.

Tell them what you do and why your work matters.

If your 14-year-old niece rolls her eyes – take it as useful feedback!

Click here for tips on handling media interviews,

Grab these eight dynamic ways to open your presentation

Learn more about communication training for academics and experts here.

If next year your goal is to boost your career, increase your influence and tell your story through media interviews, expert panels and pitching opportunities, then please contact me to find out more.


Or on Facebook

or Twitter @WritesTheresa


Theresa Miller is a former international TV and radio journalist. She trains people from all walks of life to tell their stories through media interviews, presentations, and writing.

She’s available to hire as a copywriter, MC corporate events and moderate panels.


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