Talk nerdy to me! – effective science communication

Howdy, folks! It’s my first post in 2017, besides the resolution update earlier this year (which I’ve totally been following, duh.) and I want to start with a bang (*cue sound effect*)! So, I’ve had the pleasure to attend the Famelab Malaysia 2017 Masterclass training session for 2 days, hosted by British Council & MIGHT and run by our trainer, Mr. Malcolm Love. To say that I’ve learned a little bit about science communication would be an understatement because Mr. Malcolm Love, who also happens to be one of the pioneers and lead trainers of Famelab is a treasure trove of knowledge and experience in this field, having worked with BBC and running a radio show for years. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind if you stalked him a little bit at http://www.malcolmlove.org.

Anyhow, my intentions today are to tell you some of the top tips of science communication which I gathered from this workshop. Whether you want to write science, talk science, give interviews or work in any science-related media, these tips will help you convey science in a better way. Screw inertia, let’s get moving!

  • Be unapologetic about the moment

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I’m not suggesting that you become Rihanna, but instead, embrace her stage presence. Honestly, I used to be apologetic about getting up on stage in fear that I wasn’t good enough for the audience, or that I’ll ruin their day with a rubbish talk. But in reality, there’s no reason to be apologetic because given that you’ve done your preparation & research, you’re justified to think that the audience have every right to listen to you for the period of your speech/talk. Have confidence in yourself and the material that you wish to convey. In other words, embrace the stage and shine away!

  • Worry about the needs of the audience

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The audience naturally have a limited capacity to gain and retain knowledge, and this capacity is independent of their intelligence. Believe or not, most of us would zone out in the middle of ANY form of communication – we lose attention, we’re all primed that way (maybe to conserve brain energy?). As a speaker/writer, respect that capacity – do not pump up your material with too much scientific content & data. A guideline proposed by Mr. Malcolm – imagine a possible audience member whom you like and pretend that you were crafting the presentation material to communicate science to that particular person! – this will automatically get your gears running on how much and what to mention in the material. OK. OK. I’ll move on before you doze off.

  • Talk more about less

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The key is to drive home the concept that you wish to inform the audience. For science communication purposes, it’s better to have a little difficult concepts or many easy concepts in mind to explain to the audience. In essence, you should aim to explain more about a chosen concept rather than bombarding the audience with too many concepts and a lack of explanation. How do you explain concepts effectively? That comes next!

  • Spin a not-so-long yarn

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Mr Malcolm says, “The best science communicators are often good story-tellers.” Truly, I now realise that stories are the best way to communicate science. The most successful TED Talks have stories woven into them seamlessly to explain a central underlying theme. It’s human nature, we’re a bunch of gossips that can’t get enough of stories. Alternatively, metaphors, analogies and short performances can also do the trick!

Ok Subashan! – time to practice what you preach, I’m gonna leave it here now although I’ve got a ton load of other tips I can share with you about science communication which I’ve gained from the workshop. I hope that reading this helped you in any way at all – whether you want to explain about gravity to your parents, or if you want to talk about your science project to your friend. But if reading this made you think – why bother communicating science? – then I’ve got the perfect answer for you. Because knowledge is empowering, and there shouldn’t be groups of individuals left out just because they’re not experts in the field.

 

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