Public Speaking Hacks for Scientists

As most regular readers of this blog know, I’m a speech nerd.  I competed in forensics (speech and debate) for 11 years, all the way through the collegiate level**.  As a result of this decade long inundation in communications training, I’m deeply invested in the subject of scientific communication.  I’ve taken some really stellar courses and workshops on the subject, and there is a growing resource of training, which focuses on helping scientists get the right content for the right audience and producing a concise and compelling message.  That is hugely important!  As my communications instructor husband told me recently, “Don’t shirk when planning the content of your message.  90% of effective communication happens before you open your mouth.”  It’s a point with which I completely agree.  There are forums where this sort of training is not only hugely beneficial, but is also entirely sufficient: writing popular science articles, starting a blog, or giving a killer one on one interview with a journalist.  

Mer said I couldn’t make this post live unless I included a picture from my speech days. Here I am, in a suit.

However, there are plenty of communication situations that don’t involve writing or speaking to a journalist one-on-one.  That’s right, the thing folks apparently fear more than death, public speaking.  I would contend that scientists are, often, not confident or competent public speakers.  Furthermore, scientific communication training often lacks detailed instruction on this critical skill.  Have I seen scientists who can throw down on a speech or a talk?  Sure.  But public speaking is really hard!  Lots of folks have legitimate public speaking anxiety, and still others simply haven’t gotten many chances to practice this skill.  Again, learning what to say is more important than how we actually deliver those words, especially for scientists, for whom accuracy is the barometer for competency.  However, I’ve seen some really fascinating scientific subjects, things I was personally invested in, fall flat at conferences.  I’ve seen keynote speakers who had amazing, well written stories to tell fail to really capture the potential of the moment.  I’ve heard folks talking about eminent environmental threats on NPR and wanted to turn off the radio and take a nap.  I think we can do better!***

Enough of that, you’re reading this because of the enticing title.  Tips.  Tricks!  Life hacks (eh, that was probably euphemistic at best)!  In the interest of being concise, I decided I would give you the public speaking advice I give all my friends before their conference presentations or job talks.  Unfortunately, that’s only about two items, so I reached out to all my speech and debate friends on Facebook, and asked them about their best bit of public speaking advice.  I wanted to know that one thing they advise their pals to do to prepare for a talk.  I got some great feedback, and I’ve done my best to distill it all down into a few major themes and spin them in such a way that they will be useful to scientists in a few of the different forums in which we commonly address an audience.  Thus, these tips should be useful to you if you are speaking to your peers or if you are speaking to the public.  I’ve put these in reverse order of importance, so if you read nothing else, skip down to number 5, as this was the advice literally everyone gave, and I thought it deserved some substantial elaboration.

Public Speaking Tips from Nerds, for Nerds Continue reading “Public Speaking Hacks for Scientists”

Photo Post: Last PhD Field Season

Welp, that title is actually a bit of a misnomer.  I really have about 4 more days of field work that I need to knock out over the next week or so.  DETAILS.  I know I wrote a lot recently about how stressful the summer can be for me.  It’s my busiest time of the year, field work is exhausting, and I probably don’t get enough alone time to really recharge (#introvertprobs).  But, more than any of those less positive things, I really love how much time I get to spend outside each field season.  I know I really like it, because I take about a zillion obnoxious iPhone pictures in the marsh each summer.

For your enjoyment, here is the view of my summer, from my smart phone.

Honest Tea gave me this gem on a day when I really needed it.img_7866 Continue reading “Photo Post: Last PhD Field Season”

Graduated AF: Modern Conveniences

I’ve been bouncing this blog post idea around for a bit. It definitely is not for everyone and I want to address that right off. Graduate student stipends are so varied even within a single university. Not everyone can afford to live on a grad student stipend alone. Not everyone can afford to spend money on some of the items I’m suggesting in this post. Loads of graduate students are still paying off loans from undergrad, or even accruing more as they study. I can’t address everyone’s financial status in one post. But I am privileged enough to be able to scrape together enough to afford some of the following every so often and have found that they can be a great help in regard to time and stress. And what graduate student wouldn’t want more time and less stress?

Several of the links in this post include referral links from the author. 

Continue reading “Graduated AF: Modern Conveniences”