“Actively search out opportunities to give a talk on campus. They are typically more voluntary in nature, so you need to be assertive and get yourself out there. Start your science talk with your takeaway message.Get lots of practice and you will improve – most definitely.”
– Dr. Marian Waterman
Professor, Researcher and Cancer Research Institute Director
University of California, Irvine
Advice from UCI PhD student, Amber Habowski
Along with conducting research on stem cells and colon cancer, Amber invests time honing her communication and relationship-building skills and has seized several opportunities to practice.
Become a Teaching Assistant “You learn the material when you teach it and being a TA forces you to learn to communicate it too.”
Take a Public Speaking Class Amber took a public speaking course and credits Bri McWhorter for teaching her the importance of having a message, a catchy way of explaining your science and a “large and in charge” confident demeanor.
Participate in Elevator Pitch Competitions Seek out these on and off campus events that help create a brief and effective way of explaining your science. Amber uses a conveyer belt as an iconic analogy to help explain the colon crypt structure and what happens with stem cells.
Give Technical Scientific Talks About Research In Progress The Research in Progress talks in Amber’s department are another natural opportunity that she takes advantage of to sharpen her communication skills.
Understand What Motivates Your Listeners to Act Seeking fellowship grants required Amber to speak for 15 minutes in front of donors and deans who award money. “I zero in on what’s holding back my research, some sort of obstacle. I create a connection to what their money would enable me to do.”
“Start your science talk with your takeaway message. That’s when you have everyone’s attention. Waiting till the end for the big reveal is a missed opportunity. It’s hard to captivate a listener for that long, especially if you haven’t provided enough context.”
– Dr. Scott St. George
Associate Professor of Geography
University of Minnesota
From Professor Scott St. George, University of Minnesota
Course website for The Art of Scientific Presentations
From Professor Katherine Hornbostel, University of Pittsburgh
Intro to Technical Communications Course Syllabus
Pay Attention to Good and Bad Speakers
“The opportunity to learn is everywhere. Be present and aware of poor and good quality communication in whatever setting you are in. Some presentations are terrible. While it’s tempting to check out and hit your iPhone when you are sitting in a seminar like this, you can use this time wisely. Evaluate why the talk is terrible. Ask yourself how you would do it better.”
–Dr. Marian Waterman
Professor, researcher and Cancer Institute Director
University of California, Irvine
Lecture on How to Report Results
– Jeffrey Phillips, Ph.D.
Mechanical engineer, power industry expert and former National Science Foundation Fellow is theDirector of Hanover College’s engineering program. Download the lecture (PPT Format)
“I always discuss science in terms of the value to society. There always has to be value. It’s never about THE science. The science is lovely to only the people who find it beautiful, but it is valuable to people and they need to understand the value.”
– Steve Bohlen
Global Security E-Program Manager
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Presentation Skills Training
Sheri Jeavons – Power Presentations
A robust website with tips, video and information that scientists can apply. Sheri offers coaching and workshops.
Bri McWhorter Activate to Captivate
Workshops on public speaking for university students, faculty and staff, Also works with corporations.
Storytelling and Improv Resources
Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science
Workshops, webinars and other helpful information to help scientists improve their ability to communicate.
Randy Olson – A veteran science storyteller and author conducts workshops to help scientists learn to use narrative to bring their science to life.
Brian Palermo –Story (narrative structure) and Telling (presenting) tools are crucial to effective communication. Brian trains people in both using experiential improv exercises whose impacts are insightful, compelling and lasting.
“99% of our species, throughout history, has ignored data dumps because they don’t work. If you want your science to be actually heard and acted upon, you’ve got to up your communications game. Learn about using story structure and best practices to relate to your audience. If you have authentic emotions about your science, share that. It’s very powerful.”
– Brian Palermo
Graphics to Illustrate Your Science
Life Science Animation – Helping Life Science companies explain their technologies to non-scientists (e.g. investors) with short, easy to understand videos
Matteo Farinella firstname.lastname@example.org
Research Retold – See their guide for communicating research beyond academia