Concise Phrasing Suggestions for New Volunteers
Scene: At a public event. Patron approaches Zeitgeist booth.
-"What is 'The Zeitgeist Movement'?"
Of course I knew that would be the first and most important question to know how to answer concisely, but I suppose I expected that the answer would just flow out naturally. I have committed hours upon hours of studying the concepts over the past few months, so if anyone is capable of answering that question with ease it is me, right?
-"It's a sustainability advocate-- advocacy group... I mean, it is an idea that promotes the intelligent management of the Earth's resources... Actually it's more like an effort to raise awareness of the current state of technology, but it is about identifying global problems at a root level... You see, 'Zeitgeist' is a German word... "
-"Oh. Okay, thanks."
Patron walks away with a wrinkled brow.
Why would anyone want to find out more about the movement when the guy at the table can't even speak intelligibly about it?
But how do you explain a concept as deep and vast as The Zeitgeist Movement in a concise way and give it any sort of justice or appeal?
The answer: Very carefully.
Words as well as other social cues are tiny instruments that infiltrate the mind and reorganize the mental processes of the listener. Humans have a tendency to try to immediately assimilate new information into an existing schema. The problem is that TZM is not really like any existing concept that most people are aware of and cannot be categorized easily.
Trying to create a new schema for such an abstract concept is like trying to get someone to solve a riddle:
"What attempts to make society better but has no political or religious affiliation, simultaneously promotes technological advancement and environmental preservation, and recognizes a profound sense of interconnectedness while advocating the scientific method?... Give up?"
I sometimes feel like adopting a line from The Matrix and saying, "Unfortunately no one can be told what The Zeitgeist Movement is. You have to see it for yourself." But I doubt anyone would take me seriously.
At fairs and festivals, conventions and conferences there is a limited number of words that a patron is willing to listen to before they lose interest. In this environment I want to give just enough of a hint as to what the aims of the movement are to peak the interest of the listener without overwhelming them or allowing them to dismiss it as just another activist group. To accomplish this it requires some sentence crafting.
Here is what I have tried and found to be an acceptable reply:
"The Zeitgeist Movement is an international initiative to raise awareness about the world's problems, and not just to identify them but to understand them so deeply that the solutions become self-evident."
At this point, if they show interest, I will usually refer them to the films and say:
"The Zeitgeist film series is a good introduction to the movement. The films investigate the systematic causes to global issues and examine how society will operate when our current system fails."
Then I assure them that it is all free, and that they will find it very interesting.
I suggest this template as a starting point for new volunteers. Of course the wording style evolves to each member's preference, but this phrasing template has proven to be very useful to avoid any jumbling of words or over-explaining that tends to occur when engaging the public.