In 2015 I’ve finally decided to register my company and start training people and help them gain skills and confidence in engaging with different audiences to communicate their research. At the moment, living in Japan, I do mostly pro bono work with schools and universities.
I will use this section to share with you some of the things I’ve learnt through the years, what has worked for me and what has epically failed. If you are a scientist interested in science communication, watch this space!
(or for youtube or any other medium that involves presenting)
One of the things that has made a huge difference was definitely a TV presenting course with the TV Training Academy at Pinewood studios. Not only did we learn a bunch of useful tips regarding presenting, preparing and executing, but we also got to practise and get feedback on interviewing, green screen, autocue, in-ear talkback, pieces to the camera on location, etc.
Here are a few quick tips: when presenting or interviewing, don’t forget to include the viewer in the conversation.
On location, especially when interviewing people, anything can happen. Be prepared to think on your feet and carry on without freezing.
When reading from autocue forget about the camera and imagine you are talking to the viewers. Don’t sound like you are reading a text. Practise highlighting some keywords so you don’t sound monotonous.
Using in-ear talkback for the first time can be very confusing. You’ll have someone talking in your head, but you must not reply to them or even acknowledge them (usually). They can tell you which camera is filming close-ups, suggest questions or things to do or say, or let you know how much time you have left before wrapping up, so that you finish right on time. Resist looking at the camera everytime you hear “camera 2” or “camera 3”, it’s just for your information, in case you want to say something more directly to the viewers, whenever is adequate.
This photo belongs to the TV Training Academy.
The camera/screen is a selective frame, and not everything that is going on will appear or be noticed. I filmed this entire episode with no shoes on! Make sure you are aware of what exactly is within the frame, make the most of it and don’t worry about what won’t be showing.
Become a STEM ambassador
This is a great way of getting free training, lots of ideas, a wide network, support, guidance and a periodic list of pre-organised activities that need volunteers just like you! I’m based in Leicester, so I did my initial training with LEBC, who are brilliant. If you look online for STEM in your area, I’m sure you’ll find an equivalent branch of STEMnet. After the training you will become a member of STEMnet. You can join their activities (I had an A-level student for the summer in the lab and also marked some of her peers’ posters for their CREST awards) or organise your own (last year I did “science at your local” through the British Science Association).
Get on social media
Do you enjoy talking/writing about science? Why not start a blog and/or a youtube channel? You can post whenever is most convenient for you and talk about the subjects that interest you. This is a great way of improving your communication skills. The more you practise, the more engaging, concise, simple and interesting your posts will become.