Friday, December 31, 2010

Emphasizing Your Point in Three Sentences: Laudable Example From Neil deGrasse Tyson--Astrophysicist and Communicator Extraordinaire

In my presentations on “Conquering the Pervasive Disease of Rambling: How to Emphasize Your Point in Just Three Sentences” (a workshop that has been attended by several thousand people since its inception in the late ‘90s and which has become one of the three most popular topics in my repertoire), the collection of real-life examples in the handout comprises praiseworthy and highly instructive three-sentence utterances by articulate Americans in business, government, education, and law enforcement. The world of science has been conspicuously absent.

Then, last week, while watching “NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams,” I came across an exemplary three-sentence statement by American astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, arguable the most articulate of all the personages who grace “NOVA” and other science programs on television. And this was literally a case of “manna from heaven” because the reason for Mr. deGrasse Tyson’s appearance on that program was the coinciding of a total lunar eclipse with the winter solstice—the first time that has happened in nearly 400 years. Emphasizing why he will be focusing his attention later that night on the shade of red that the moon will take on at the zenith of the eclipse, Mr. deGrasse Tyson said:

“I will look forward to learning what is going on in our atmosphere from that signature of the reflected light on the moon. How much volcanic ash is still up there; what kind of pollutants are there; are there dust storms that kicked up just before the eclipse unfolded? So, there’s some information you can learn about earth’s atmosphere by monitoring the color of the eclipsed moon.”

The above promises to become one of the most prized real-life examples in future renditions of “Conquering the Pervasive Disease….” workshop because of the series of mini, evocative, and staccato questions that Mr. deGrasse Tyson packed into the crucial second sentence.

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