You’ve probably already seen Canadian Astronaut Chris Hadfield’s cover of David Bowie’s Space Oddity or one of his many other videos from the International Space Station. (If you haven’t, take a few minutes to watch a couple of them now.)
Commander Hadfield’s clearly an extraordinary guy. But aren’t most of the other astronauts extraordinary, too? People have been clipping their nails, using washcloths, and playing guitars (the ISS has it’s own specially-made guitar, by the way) in space for years. NASA and other space agencies have had access to amazing content like this for decades. Why has Hadfield gotten so much attention?
The thing that strikes me about Commander Hadfield is his ability to identify stories that would be of interest to his audience and to present those stories in a way that makes it easy for them to enjoy.
There’s a presentation lesson here somewhere.
Based on Commander Hadfield’s videos, here are four observations for how you, too, can identify the amazing content you’re overlooking and share it with your audience in a meaningful way.
1. Look for things only you can do.
Most of Commander Hadfield’s videos were about how to do mundane things…but in space! Surely every astronaut to ever experience weightlessness has had the same, childlike experiences as they re-learn to do things in zero gravity. I’m sure after a while it just becomes part of the job. But for the millions of us who will never get to go into space, even brushing your teeth becomes a riveting experience. There are tons of things you do every day that might be fascinating to someone on the outside looking in. Find those things that would be of interest to outsiders and share the experience with them.
2. Simplify something complex. (Not too long, in terms everyone can understand.)
Commander Hadfield is an astronaut with the heart of a teacher. Many people might struggle to explain why your eyesight worsens in space and the experiments we’re doing to find out why. It would be easy to launch into a long winded explanation and cover all the intricate details. You know Commander Hadfield has to be extremely familiar with those intricacies. And yet he’s able to talk about them in ways that the school children he’s addressing can understand. And his explanation remains fairly brief. It’s the mark of a true master to be able to talk about things in such simple terms. Find ways to share complicated things in easy-to-understand ways.
3. Don’t be afraid to try something new.
Why haven’t any other astronauts recorded a song from orbit with a pop band? It could be that none of them thought of it. But it could also be that none of the others had the nerve to try to make it happen. Maybe they doubted their own singing skills. Or maybe they didn’t think it could ever really happen so they never even got started. Whatever the reason, it’s easy to see now how exciting musical performances from space would have been. Bravo to Commander Hadfield for having the guts to try this stuff. Be brave! Try fun, new ideas and express your creativity. In the words of Kid President, “Stop being boring. Anybody can be boring. But you’re gooder than that.”
4. Take questions from listeners, readers, fans, etc.
This might seem like a cop out, but trust me that it’s not. One sure fire way to find out what your audience wants to know is just to ask! Most of Commander Hadfield’s videos have him simply answering questions from school children. He takes each one seriously and gives an enlightening and entertaining response. Taking the time to answer questions shows respect for your audience and enables them form a connection with you. Even if you think you already know what they’d ask, it never hurts to stop and make sure you’re right.
You don’t have to go to space to find amazing things about what you do that could be shared with others. All of us are capable of generating interesting and exciting content. Just follow Commander Hadfield’s example.
What’s something interesting about your job or experience that others might find interesting?