Several people in the lab are applying for jobs right now, so the recent article by Roberta Kwok about elevator talks in Nature seems particularly relevant:
Nancy Baron is quoted in the article, where she "suggests thinking about four key topics":
1. the problem
2. why it matters
3. potential solutions
4. the benefits of fixing it.
I wanted to highlight how important I think these short interactions are, not just for explaining science to a lay audience, but for interacting with peers and collaborators. So much of the doctoral work is focused on precision, on figuring out the nitty gritty details, that when we finish, we sometimes forget how long it took to learn and become comfortable with all of the terminology and background. Another aspect of graduate school, and perhaps to a greater extent the postdoc, and applying for jobs, is to emphasize the areas we are experts in. As such, it is difficult to sometimes admit that we don't know it all. Coupled together, these can result in two very intelligent people speaking to one another, but not fully understanding each other.
While it may seem like an oversimplification (instead of just a simplification), and go against our very nature to provide details, the ability to concisely give an accessible overview of our science can only improve our interactions. Anyone who wants to know more can easily ask.