i've really been digging some books on public speaking lately (both via naveen) - presentation zen design and confessions of a public speaker. the latter has very good advice on distilling your presentation to different degrees:
In effect, by working hard on a clear, strong, well-reasoned outline, I've already built three versions of the talk: an elevator pitch (the title), a five-minute version (saying each point and a brief summary), and the full version (with slides, movies, and whatever else strengthens each point).
the same methodology can apply to conversations at a bar or party, where you present yourself layer by layer, without the usual academic powerpoint crutch. this skill is essential in a place like cambridge, where your average craft brew aficionado also cures cancer or microlends in southern india or scans meditating monks in an fmri machine.
drink 1. this is prime elevator pitch time - you have to hook your conversationmate before they take two sips. i usually stick with the half lie 'i do rocket science'.
drink 2. ok, 'rocket scientist' worked, so now i can transition to what kinds of x-rays come from space, how we can best detect them on said rocket, and why this is important for silly things like carbon-based life forms.
drink 3. if you're still asking the right questions at this point, i'll be laying down terms like 'superconductor' and 'ionization state' to fill in the details between those earlier broad strokes. i'll be drawing graphs in the frost of your silver julep cup. i'll describe the mechanics of a supernova so vividly that you won't even think to make a joke involving the oasis song.
further drinks. well, at this point i would hope to have segued to something more entertaining, like cocktail history. otherwise, i'd be yammering about the best kinds of tape for cryogenic purposes, and that's not good for anybody. but at least none of my julep diagrams would use comic sans.