Photo by Ben Carless on Unsplash

By Mary Appophia

It was the third time that I was being given a platform to talk about climate change, and …. I froze…again.

“What’s new?” I muttered to myself, silently wondering why I’d thought it was a good idea to show up.

It didn’t make sense at all though. My sudden incapacity to speak or say the right things. I’d read quite a lot on the subject (Maybe that was the problem?). I had worked directly with climate change projects and spoken alot about it in the course of my work. Several times. Hundred times. (Albeit robotically now that I think about it).

I could sing song the causes of climate change, the impacts of climate change, most of everything really. But I really didn’t know how to communicate about it.

“Maybe I should just hide in the background,” I thought to myself. “Be a part of the back end crew. Let someone else handle this communication thing.” I really wanted to do this though. Speak confidently and articulately about climate change.

But with my low climate change communication skills glaring at my face, I didn’t know how I would have these conversations with anyone really. Let alone speak infront of a diverse crowd without losing them in layers of jargons.

And what was I supposed to do with this journalist sitting across the interview table wearing a huge scowl on his face, and repeatedly calling out for ‘cuts’ to remind me that once again, I was talking in NGO speak? Which was basically code for, “You are using way too many acronyms, and way too many complex words that my audience cannot really follow you.”

And months later, when I stood with a pen in hand to teach about climate change and the environment in general, I got the same feedback and a whole lot of “Could you break down the terms that you are using? Desertification, aridity, resilience, adaptation, mitigation…. And could you speak a whole lot more slower?”.

At the back of my mind I knew exactly what I meant by those terms, and what they entailed. But why though couldn’t I convey them in words, sentences and paragraphs without rumbling? Or was it because I just didn’t understand them as well as I thought I did.

Where was PowerPoint when I needed it? A YouTube video could also have come in handy, right? It’d show everything that I meant. Oh, wait. What about in situations where those were not an option? What then would I rely on?

Then it dawned on me that to be able to share knowledge about climate change, I needed to re-learn it. I also needed to understand the different terminology in such a way that I could easily explain them to myself and others. I was also aware that I needed to take the audience seat, and watch how other speakers went about breaking down a range of subjects.

What is your secret to mastering any subject? Has communication always come easy to you? Importantly, if you were in the audience, what would make it easier for you to understand the subject? Do share.