Even the best research results are worth nothing if people don’t hear about them, or don’t understand what you are saying. Maybe it is time to revise the way we communicate science?
Introduction, methods, results, conclusion, introduction, methods, results, conclusion, introduction….for years I used the same layout for my presentations. Even when I had useful results to present, I was often left with the feeling that I could not transfer my knowledge to my colleagues. Therefore, I decided, it was time to improve my communication skills.
Labrats like me are usually buried under layers of experiments, hypotheses and theories. I rarely take time to think about how to present my results to colleagues or even the public. Still, the best results are worth nothing when people do not hear about them. So, time to shed a little of my labrat fur and get to it.
I stumbled upon a scientific communication course taught at the Simula Lab in Oslo. The course was organized by Michael Alley from Penn State University and it consisted of in total two weeks of full-time workshops and many homework assignments.
A lot of hard work, it seemed at first, just to learn talking about your research… but hey, at least I could try something new!
This is a video we made at the course in Scientific communication.
I soon learned that the hard work was necessary. We were trained in a new way of presenting, the assertion-evidence approach, in which we would build our talk on messages and not on topics. We had to change our whole way of approaching presentations. To be honest, it was an uncomfortable thought in the beginning. However, the more often we practiced the more natural the new approach became.
Not only did we completely change our way of presenting, we were also trained in other ways of communicating. We practiced elevator pitches over and over again; we wrote proposals and we presented our scientific posters during one of the last challenges, we teamed up in groups of three, to make a video about our research within 24 hours.
After hours of filming and editing, we created a three-minute movie about Microbiology. We even took home the award for best opening after hours of editing and filming. We were exhausted but happy (link to video or embed video).
Looking back, I wish I took an even longer course. There is so many things to learn about when it comes to communicating science. Nowadays, I am back in Trondheim where I return to
my work in the laboratory.
I now realize that the whole course changed the way I look at presentations. I have a new toolbox available to communicate my research effectively and I cannot wait to get out there and try it!