Passion versus Purpose

We are often encouraged, particularly when we are young, to find our passion and follow it to greatness. The traditionally held logic is that if we do what we love success and money will follow. However, commonly as we grow older we come a conclusion that our passion isn’t realistic, or simply not an endeavor worth pursuing.  Having a passion is no doubt a driver to do more, be better you and make a mark on the world. However following raw passion without clear direction isn’t any better than being apathetic and having no passion at all. How does all of this translate into public speaking? In this post we explore how to add passion to your presentations, while maintaining a clear focused purpose.

“Do what you love, and feel as if you never work a day in your life!”

Leonid Pasternak - The Passion of creation

Start from the beginning.

Many of us have several different things we are passionate about, the trouble is finding the time to focus on any one thing. When I began writing this blog I wanted to focus on something that I am passionate about, science communication. The posts I write are aimed at helping people (particularly scientists) communicate, present their work, and speak more clearly to an audience. However, with all the different aspects of science communication, how could I stay focused to get my message across? The answer is a clear purpose. Although I had passion about the message, creating a focused blog aimed at specific group with specific problems was, I found, the best way to go about disseminating my message. Yet, when you devote yourself a single endeavor, it can be difficult to pinpoint where passion should end and where purpose should begin.

Passion vs. Purpose

passion – noun 1. A strong and barely controllable emotion.
 
purpose – noun 1. The reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists.

In the old days it wasn’t uncommon for someone to have complete and utter devotion to a single body of work. Workers trained for years as apprentices with more experienced craftsmen. These understudies would work diligently, until they were able to prove themselves in their field by becoming a journeyman.  Some people were born into this type of work, and embraced it whether it was their passion or not. Particularly before the advent of computers, some works of science and art would literally take a lifetime to complete. This level of devotion is not commonly seen these days, as most of us have many different responsibilities, tasks, and hobbies that play significant role in our lives. Our daily work, may not reflect our true passions in life, but it is possible to have a purpose in life driven by passion. We usually consider the definition of greatness  simply talent or inherent intelligence. The fact is that being driven by a passion will cause you to exert so much more effort you would normally put into a task. The outcome is, that when driven by passion and focused by purpose, we can achieve much more than we ever though possible.

It is entirely possible that your purpose is to let your passions spread through the world. However it is important to consider why we are doing what we do in the first place. In the case of public speaking and science communication you might ask yourself, am I trying to get feedback from the audience? am I trying to present new information that others can then use and benefit from? or perhaps you want to simply update a group of people on the progress that has been made on a project. Whatever your reason, if you allow some passion behind your words you can naturally captivate and inspire the audience. Although this can be difficult focusing on a positive reason for speaking in public can help tremendously. Whether it be, trying to impress your boss, or to help others, giving yourself a clear reason to communicate with improve your message.

“We have a chance to take advantage of everyday occasions to … to be of service to the world.” 1

An example of pure passion.

The video below is a compilation of several clips of Niel deGrasse Tyson speaking about how the US space program is underfunded. The emotion of Tyson and the force with which he speaks is raw, yet he is able to put these feelings into a coherent and clear message. His way of speaking is convincing because it has tremendous passion, but with great skill he is still maintaining a clear message. There is no doubt that with the deepest part of his soul he believes what he is saying to be true, you can not only hear it in his words you begin to feel it as you watch the video. When giving a presentation there often times when this  type of moving reaction is needed when you want to convince your audience about a certain point, or to rally them in agreeance. These types of speeches or presentations are particularly useful when you are trying to garner action by your audience members.

Let your passion drive you, let your purpose refine you.

The difficult thing about passion is that for the most part we don’t consciously choose what we are passionate about, rather we find our passion in our lives along the way as we grow and mature. Therefore, purpose has to drive our actions while we use passion to keep us motivated despite setbacks and difficulties in life. In the case of speaking in public, our purpose can feel much more mundane than passion, but without having a clear purpose we would simply end up ranting about a topic rather than speaking clearly. Combining these two ideas is key to becoming a great speaker. There are times, even when giving a boring quarterly report to the board room, that we must remind ourselves of the purpose of doing our job while keeping passion alive.

Perfect practice makes perfect

It is highly unlikely that going out on our first time speaking in public we will be able to make a convincing argument such as Dr. Tyson has done in the above video. That level of skill when speaking in public takes years of practice. Research has shown that those who are willing to stick it out with many hours of practice, end up becoming better at their task and are more successful. 2 Although we may feel that we are born with a set amount of skill, talent, or ability through dedicated practice and effort we can master any skill. 3 Keep in mind however, becoming excellent at a task requires lots of practice, discipline, failure, and often years to perfect. 2 With some effort however we can improve our communication skills and begin to have moving speeches just like the above video.

References

  1. Brooks, D. (2015). The road to character. Random House.
  2. Duckworth, A. L., Peterson, C., Matthews, M. D., & Kelly, D. R. (2007). Grit: perseverance and passion for long-term goals. Journal of personality and social psychology, 92(6), 1087
  3. Robinson, K. (2009). The element: How finding your passion changes everything. Penguin.

The Power of Silence

We have all been there when, sitting in the audience confounded as a speaker is blasting us with information or speaking a mile a minute because they are nervous. The result of a presentation like this, is that everyone gets lost and loses interested. When speaking in public the most successful speakers use all the tools at their disposal to captivate an audience and convey information. And one of the most powerful of these tools is actually not what is said, but the unspoken silence that allows information to sink in or pose a question. In this post we will look at some of the ways that you can integrate silence into your presentation for dramatic effect as well as allowing the audience some time to absorb the information you are presenting to them

How Silence Affects Your Presentation

When we are speaking we convey information such as the presence of a person or the details of an idea. In normal everyday conversation we use pauses and silence to create distance in our speech. When speaking, silence constructs a gap between the speaker and the audience. This gap can be a powerful tool if used in the right way. However, if we get nervous or are under-prepared we subconsciously forgo using silence and instead try to fill gaps or pauses with words. This can overload an audience with information, and audience engagement dissipates. We would never speak this if we are relaxed, but under pressure we can’t help speaking quickly or without pauses. On the other extreme, some may freeze up when nervous, allowing far too much silence creating an atmosphere of awkwardness and confusion. This can lead to the audience interpreting the silence as trying to hide something or a lack of knowledge of the subject.1

The Virgin Mary telling a young John the Baptist to be quiet Wellcome V0015058

To understand how to use silence in a presentation effectively, you will first need to understand how we use silence in a natural way and what it conveys. Think of the last time you were having a conversation with a friend. In natural conversation there are regular pauses that let the other party absorb ideas and respond. In conversation, and these pauses are one of the most important features of social interaction.3  There are no spoken rules about when you should be silent, rather we just get the feeling that it is time to allow the other person a chance to say something. That feeling stems from us picking up on subtle natural cues that the other person is giving us. Silences of about 1 to 2 seconds are relatively normal in most everyday conversations.2  To emphasize a point or to ask a question silent pauses can last 3-5 seconds giving a dramatic effect. Silence might feel like an eternity when you are on stage, but if done right you will captivate and engage the audience.

“It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.” – Mark Twain

How and when to use silence in your presentation

Long breaks in speaking can be divided into two types of silence, unintentional and intentional.1 Unintentional can be considered as someone who is shy or might feel embarrassed, while intentional silence has a distinct purpose.1  Intentional silence may be caused by the need or desire to withhold information from what is being discussed or questioned. For example, think about how you do not want to reveal too much information before delivering the punch line of a joke. Additionally, when negotiating, one party may want to be careful with the amount of information conveyed. Silence should be used strategically, and not because you have run out of things to say. However, in some cases too long a period of silence could be interpreted as a break down of communication. Depending on your audience, some groups may expect certain periods of silence in your speech that may be longer than you are comfortable with.2  So take the time to think about the context of your next presentation to help you decide how much silence to include.

It is useful to consider silence as a tool to convey information, emotion, and intrigue. Despite what our subjective gut reaction may be to silence. It turns out that, we are preconditioned based on gender, age, or race to speak with a certain amount of silence. Our normal pace of speaking, therefore, should be adjusted to fit a topic, audience and best convey information. These factors need to be considered while you are preparing before you get on stage. In a conversation there are several ways to know when a silent pause is appropriate, such as subtle distinct cues when to speak. However unlike a face to face interaction, on stage you do not have the benefit of these cues, and need to rely on your practiced rhythm to guide the presentation. In general most conversations will have fewer long pauses (e.g. greater than 2 seconds) than short pauses (e.g. less than 2 seconds).3  As you craft your next talk consider the number of times you want silence and how that might affect the audience’s perception of you. The goal is to balance the amount of silence so there is not too much or too little, and only you will be able to make the judgement call based on the topic, audience, and venue.

After George Caleb Bingham - Stump Speaking (engraving, 1886)

Simple tips to improve your voice when speaking

Probably the most common advice to improve your speaking voice is practice, however before you get to the stage here are some tips to help with your next talk. Make sure to take it slow. You may need to remind yourself during the presentation. For example if you are going to have notes on stage with you, write in the margins to remind yourself, “slow down”. Allow for short pauses as the next slide or idea is presented, and let your natural pace come through.

If you have bad jitters and get nervous when you get up to speak, find some friends to help with your next talk. Get in front of a small group that you are comfortable with, so you can condition your brain to be more relaxed when you speak to a bigger audience. Even if you do not have a talk coming up you can always do some basic Wikipedia research on a topic and give a practice talk on a random subject. Public speaking is a work in progress and it may take many tries to find your pace. Make sure to focus on keeping yourself calm and collected as you can, by consciously relaxing your breathing and posture.

If you are just getting your feet wet speaking in public, it is not uncommon for a new or inexperienced speaker to struggle with when to add silence or how long to pause. Many inexperienced speakers begin their presentation speaking at an unrelenting pace. Yet, no matter what your experience level, practicing a natural speaking rhythm with a balance of silent pauses will go a long way to help the quality of your next presentation.

References

1. Kurzon, D. (1995). The right of silence: A socio-pragmatic model of interpretation. Journal of pragmatics, 23(1), 55-69.

2. Mushin, I., & Gardner, R. (2009). Silence is talk: Conversational silence in Australian Aboriginal talk-in-interaction. Journal of Pragmatics, 41(10), 2033-2052.

3. Wilson, T. P., & Zimmerman, D. H. (1986). The structure of silence between turns in two‐party conversation. Discourse Processes, 9(4), 375-390.

4. Zimmermann, D. H., & West, C. (1996). Sex roles, interruptions and silences in conversation. Amsterdam Studies in the Theory and History of Linguistic Science Series 4, 211-236.

Using Tension to Communicate Your Story

Have you ever wondered why some movies, books or television shows can be so enthralling while others are seemingly uninteresting? One reason why we get so hooked on a story is because of suspense. The stories that we most often enjoy have an moment where the final outcome can go either way, and we become emotionally invested in that outcome. During the build up of conflicts in the story we identify with the characters and think of ourselves in that situation. 3 Often for dramatic effect writers and directors make the audience wait as long as possible for the outcome, hoping to build up as much suspense as possible. This is really a build up of emotional frustration in ourselves, due to the not knowing of the outcome and having to wait. Suspense usually manifests itself in the form of tension, and in this post our topic is how to harness this powerful emotional feeling when communicating. By utilizing tension in your presentations you will be able to keep the audience engaged and interested in the outcome of your talk.

Wikimania 2014 opening ceremony audience 16

What is tension?

Tension is used in every aspect of communication from short stories to video games. 2 To begin we need to clearly define exactly what we are trying to achieve. Here, I am referring to tension as the slight emotional or mental strain we feel when we are hearing a story.  It is an effective tool that can help drive the narrative. 1 Using tension can create a more interesting story or increase audience attentiveness. The reason why it works so well is because people empathize with the story they are hearing and imagine themselves in the same situation. 3 This is a unique aspect of human nature that we try our best to identify with our colleagues and friends. Despite tension feeling unpleasant, humans want to be able to relate others and understand the problem at hand. People actually crave feelings that give them excitement and frustration, this helps create an interesting story and something that we enjoy. 2

So you may be asking yourself, but my boring subject matter has no tension, how can I create something that isn’t there in the first place? The fact is that every story can be told in a way that creates tension. There was probably a lot of tension throughout your project that you shrugged off because it didn’t seem to be that important at the time. Specifically in science, there is no work that is done without problems, difficulties, or hurdles to overcome. Yet, in our perception of our own work we tend to trivialize these difficulties so that it seems uninteresting. I can’t tell you how many times I have explained some seemingly boring aspect of my work to the general public only to hear the response of “that is so interesting!”. In our day to day it is easy for things to seem mundane. In fact, the problems you had to face and overcome to achieve your goals or finish your project add to the tension of the story.

Finding tension

There are some tricks you can use to help figure out what parts of your story will add tension when you tell it. Begin by thinking about any  actual consequences of your work, or your research. For example, anyone who does research in bio-medical fields where the lives of others depend on their work. Or perhaps people who take great risks to do work in dangerous areas, such as doctors without borders. If your work is something that is less dramatic, consider things that help people understand what you are solving and why. This is usually the main idea behind the “why should we care” slide that so many people include in their talks. The idea is that you want to explain how others can empathize with your work and expand on this emotion. Do this by brainstorming out some ideas on how your work effects the audience. Next make a list of all the problems big and small that you had to overcome. From your field vehicle breaking down, to someone getting attacked by a wild animal. People think that science is boring, but over the years I have seen deceit, sabotage, and literal fist fights. You don’t need to pretend to be writing a script for a soap opera, but identify conflict and use them to your advantage.  By coming up with a reason for the audience to care, and identifying problems that you faced, you can begin to weave a story that will be build empathy in the audience. Once the audience connects with your work it is easier to add the tension to the story.

Театр оперы и балета. Зал

A give and take interaction between you and the audience

Once you have identified the elements of the story that you will use in your presentation, it is time to add in the tension. Keep in mind that, you don’t want to use up all the tense moments in the first five minutes of your talk. Showing all your cards early will feel like a laundry list of complaints about how hard your project was, and it makes for an weak climax to the story.  Add suspenseful moments throughout your story, think about what happened first and how that led to the next problem you had to overcome. This can be as simple as “the first experiment failed so we went to plan B”. There likely has been been multiple problems to the research, and you can lead the audience through the narrative introducing the next conflict in a logical order as you go along. Remember to allow your audience question how you resolved the conflicts, but don’t just spoon feed all the answers right away give allow for space in your presentation before you resolve each problem.

Tension can also be built up by convincing the audience that they are “missing out” by not engaging in the presentation. 4  Marketers use this tactic all the time with adverts saying things like “By knowing these three secrets to finance you can be rich too, but only for a limited time!”. Using the correct language and visuals makes us think we will miss out and so the audience wants to know more. By being the speaker at a presentation you are in control of all the information and therefore can control who has access and by how much. 4 Use this power by dropping hints throughout the presentation, for example you can say something like this, “I’m going to share with you the secret to how this molecule works to chelate iron, but first let me tell you about X”. The point is that you are controlling the flow of information, and can dose it out slowly to the audience.  This power allows the speaker to create tension where and when they want since they can control these aspects which create tension.

By using tension in your presentation you will have another tool by which to get the audience to engage with your work. Being able to craft a good presentation takes practice so remember to try different points where you create tension, and where you reveal the outcome. With a little practice you will be well on your way to creating an interesting and exciting presentation.

References

1. Dollerup, C. (1970). The Concepts of “Tension”,“Intensity”, and “Suspense” in Short‐Story Theory. Orbis Litterarum, 25(4), 314-337.

2.  Lazzaro, N. (2004). Why we play games: Four keys to more emotion without story.

3. Stromberg, P. G., (Jun 18, 2010) The Mysteries of Suspense Why do we love suspense? https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/sex-drugs-and-boredom/201006/the-mysteries-suspense

4. Walsh, M., (May + June 2013). Harnessing the power of positive tension. http://interactions.acm.org/archive/view/may-june-2013/harnessing-the-power-of-positive-tension

Communicating in a Classroom Setting

Until now I have only been addressing public speaking and communication as a means to disseminate information through a one way conversation. For example, when on stage communicating in a public setting, there is not much opportunity for audience participation. The expert is telling a story and conveying information, while the audience listens passively. In these cases generally the only feedback from the audience is nonverbal facial expressions and gestures. There might be time for a few questions at the end, but for the most part this it is a one way street.  There is however, another very important venue for communication, knowledge transfer, and public engagement, which is the classroom. Whether you are a teacher at a high school or a professor at a university the skills and techniques needed are different than an “on stage” presentation. In this post we will discuss some of the ways you can improve audience participation and increase the information retention of your audience.

Why is speaking in a classroom so much different than communicating on stage in a public setting? For the most part it has to do with the opportunity for the audience to ask questions and engage the speaker in a way that is possible in other formats. Sure there is time for Q&A  at the end of a presentation, but a few minutes of questions is no comparison to the the back and forth discussion that a classroom setting can have. In the classroom you are teaching to the audience, and allowing them to have an active role in learning. Whereas In the public setting you are relying on the audience to pay attention while you are keeping them engaged and interested. Here, when I refer to the classroom I an going to assume that the audience is composed of young adults. There are obviously many different methods for communicating and when it comes to kids, and some of the methods explained here won’t work as well due to different attention spans, maturity, discipline, etc. However, as a communicator knowing a few techniques to manage a back and forth discussion and increase audience participation can be useful for any classroom setting.

Bundesarchiv Bild 183-S77546, Schulunterricht

Getting your audience involved

The first step to communicating in the classroom is to get the audience involved. It is important to begin by literally telling your audience that it is okay to participate. Too often students are discouraged from sharing ideas or questions for fear of feeling stupid or being ridiculed. When you set the tone so that everyone is part of the discussion (as long as it is respectful) it will encourage everyone to take part. If you are working with a particularly young audience you will need to make sure you can guide the discussion and not let it go off topic. No matter, it is imperative that you involve the audience, for two reasons. The first is that if the students are not involved then they will quickly lose interest. These days most of us (including adults) have shorter and shorter attention spans, and are not often able to stay engaged for very long periods of time. When it comes to communicating on the stage, we are relying on the audience to stay attentive on their own. We help this by being interesting and polished, but the ultimate responsibility is on the audience to stay with us. By involving the audience, it will engage them in a different way because they will want to have their opinion or question heard. The second reason is that everyone learns in slightly different ways and most of us need to experience something first hand to learn about it. That being said, as the communicator you will need to provide a mixture of learning opportunities for the audience, be it from questions, discussion,  visual aids , or a hands on activity. Allowing the audience to ask questions, make comments and participate in both listening and speaking, make for a more diverse learning experience. Make sure, however, that you are also prepared with some different kinds of material (visual and hands on) in addition to your spoken word to engage your audience with.

Managing a back and forth discussion

Generally as a communicator you will likely get the most engagement from a discussion setting. Communicators use language as a primary tool and it is no surprise that this would be our first way to connect with the audience. But how do you manage the discussion? The first step is to make sure that you are staying more or less on topic. You can allow a lot of leeway for people to have their comment, but the point is you will need to be comfortable cutting someone off and saying “thanks but we need to stay on topic”.  Now you may be thinking that this will only applies to a younger audience, but you would be surprised at how many adults have little concept of how to remain on topic. Ideally you should allow for questions to be answered as they come up, or pause often and see if any questions arise. However questions are not the only thing that you need to allow for, comments should be welcomed as long as they are on topic. Literally saying this to the audience, is helpful since you are setting the rules for the discussion, rather than having the audience make them up on their own. Cite the fact that time is limited (as it always is) and so everything needs to be on topic and be relevant to the subject. The importance of questions and comments is that they can spur others into a new way of thinking they had not considered before. This is helpful to allow the audience to understand the material better or at least remember more of the presentation. Often it is good practice to repeat the question and answer more than once during the presentation. Humans have a better chance at remembering something if it is repeated with short breaks in between repetitions. In general you will want to allow the discussion to happen naturally, keeping it on track and on time, while making sure that repeat all important points.

When should you become a moderator and allow the audience to interact with itself?

There may be a time that you get a good back and forth going between audience members and you should allow this given time constraints. A back and forth between the audience members can be something that is very productive or it can be a complete disaster, you will need to be the judge of  how it is going. As the communicator you will need to moderate the conversation, making sure no one is cut off and that the discussion stays relevant to the topic. Imagine that you are the referee that can stop the fight at any time if someone is about the get really hurt. Keep in mind that back and forth within the audience is usually not well organized, so you need to also be aware that some people might dominate the conversation. It is your job to make sure that the conversation stay balanced, even by verbally saying “okay what about what other people who have not commented think?”. Ideally this will not take too much effort because for the most part people are respectful of one another, but you are also there to make sure they follow the rules. Allowing the audience to discuss the topic can vastly enrich the experience of everyone in the room.

Lehre an der hhu 2011

Why is this important? and what are the advantages?

When you engage the audience in a classroom setting you are essentially giving them the ability to express thoughts and questions while learning something new. Things may not go as you had planned, but that is what is so unique about classrooms, the discussion is often organic and very interesting ideas can be born from it. As the speaker you are always in control to make sure the right material is covered, however the way in which that material is covered is really up to the audience.  This is relevant because of the way that Humans learn, is through trial and error. Allowing people the chance to formulate thoughts and opinions of the material, will drastically increase information retention over passive listening to a presentation. Overall the classroom setting is a very different place when communicating and if done in a respectful and controlled manner everyone will walk away having gained new insights and information.

Why Every Presentation You Give is Different

Throughout our careers as scientists, science communicators and public speakers, we may be asked to give many different  types of presentations. Each time we speak it is a unique experience with different audiences and different venues. In fact your audience will perceive your presentation differently based on who they are, their level of engagement and level of education. There is a lot more going on behind the scenes between you and your audience than just the words that are spoken. We are constantly adapting in the moment to non verbal feedback from the audience without even knowing it.

Audience waiting

When practicing with a new presentation we tailor how we present based on our preconceived notion of the audience. I’ve recommended to take time beforehand to consider, the audience, the venue, and the subject matter, to create the perfect presentation for the event.  However, our presentation is a manifestation of not only the material we put together, but also our current emotional state, and the response of the audience. In most cases we are far more connected with the audience than we think. In this post we will briefly explore how our perception of the audience and their perception of us, can influence our speaking style.

How does the audience see you and your subject matter?

By the very nature of speaking in public we are relying on being broad enough to reach most of the audience, but not too simplistic so as to disengage any one person. From the perspective of the audience, everyone will remember or connect with something different. The audience is considering not only what was said, but what they think it meant, and how they identify with that idea. This similar to how eye witness testimony can be so different even if two people saw exactly the same event. In the court room the main ideas will likely be the same, “a man stole a car”, but the finer details can be different, like thinking he drove away in a blue car when it was actually red. The way that your audience perceives your presentation is largely based on what details they remember to be important (stolen car) and how they filter those details (was it red or blue). This is the same reason why you can go watch a movie with friends, and each person will describe a unique experience afterwards. Your audience will experience your talk in the same way good or bad, right or wrong.

How do you see yourself and your presentation?

Sometimes we can be hard on ourselves for missing a fact or detail during a presentation. Perhaps we made a mistake in how we wanted to define a topic or we used the wrong words, it happens to the best of us. There is an old saying that, “we are our own worst critics”, and it can be true for anyone who works under the eye of public scrutiny. As a presenter, we have an idealized picture of how the material should be presented even before we get on stage. This is a natural human tendency to try to predict the outcome of an event before it happens so we can be prepared. The problem is that usually things go differently (good or bad) from what is in our mind and we get discouraged feeling a little out of control. The reason however things go differently is not always because we make mistakes but because we are adapting based on the audience.

In a one on one conversation you know immediately whether the other person understands you or not, because of non verbal feedback. Having only one person to focus on allows us to stop and repeat ourselves if the other person is lost. As a communicator we are constantly adapting our language and our tone to make sure that the we are understood. When you speak to a large audience, you still are receiving non verbal feedback whether you know it or not. Unlike a one on one conversation this feedback is coming from many different sources, so you are not just adapting based on one person’s response.  Being critical of ourselves while speaking can be generally positive but it is also very easy to let that criticism go too far. We need to be critical and scrutinize our work during the planning phase of the presentation. Once we are on stage, however, and after the presentation is over, being overly critical is of little help. So before you think that things didn’t go according to plan, consider the value of adaptation and thinking on your feet. And finally, the perception of your talk by the audience is probably very different from what you think.

021 JHV 2012 (8272218604)

How can you use perception to your advantage?

The biggest difference between you and the audience is that you know the material better than those listening to you. Therefore as the presenter it is much easier to see and focus on the errors or shortcomings since they appear so obvious to you. Yet, for the most part the audience cannot stay completely focused all the time and take in every detail. They are constantly trying to adsorb new information and assimilate it into their current way of thinking. This is why generally not everyone will experience the talk in the same way. Audience members are also easily distracted, especially as our technologies are ever more present with notifications and instant responses. The vast majority of the world is having a shorter and shorter attention spans as technology advances. The point is that we need to focus on grabbing the attention of the audience more than anything else. Getting the audience to experience the talk in our idealized view is not really a realistic goal since all the information is filtered by the perception of audience. As communicators the idea is to remain fluid and be ready to adapt, explaining your subject based on any feedback from the audience. Remember, that the audience heard what they perceived and it was a unique experience for them whether they enjoyed it or not.

Effective Time Management for Science Communication

Having a good sense of time management is more than just being under the allotted time and allowing the audience to ask questions. It is about making sure the flow and meter of what you present connects with the audience. It is also about planning beforehand and making sure that you are covering your topic in an efficient manner. Being good at time management is more than just numbers, it is a formula that will make your presentation successful. In this post we explore some things you can do to improve your use of time while communicating.

Blue alarm clock (1)

The planning phase

In order for your presentation to flow well and make sense to the audience, you need to plan out the important parts ahead of time. Start by considering how much time you want to spend on each part of your presentation. Do this by making a list of all the topics you want to cover in the talk. Chances are there is not enough time to cover all of the things you want to and still be on time during the presentation. The reality is, that you are going to have to cut some of the things on your list and it could be as much as half of the things you wrote down. Consider how long (in minutes) it would take to explain each part and write down those times next to each topic on your list. If you are not sure how long it would take for a topic, get a stopwatch app on your phone and time yourself. Expect that you might speak a little faster on stage (about 10% or so) and add all the times together. This will give you a rough idea of what you are looking at for overall time. Even if you are able to cover everything in time, in context it still may be too much information for the audience. For a 15 minute presentation you should have one central idea with the rest of the material supporting the central idea. Longer presentations can have one maybe two central ideas, but if you are trying fit more than that it is probably too much info.

Your priorities

Next, it is time to consider what are the essential parts of the story that cannot be cut. You may feel that an in depth explanation of your PCR analysis of DNA is something you cannot cut out, however you need to think about the context of your talk. For example, you may not need to bring up the complexities of your methods when speaking to a audience composed of the general public. On the other hand you may want to go through the extensive detail of your methods when you are talking about something new that revolutionizes your field. The key is to be as concise as possible, while still creating an effective story line. Consider how most powerful stories follow and details or information that do not support the arc are not necessary.

Organization

Organizing your talk may seem like something that is already easy and doesn’t need to be examined in detail. However, sometimes the plan we have in our head doesn’t go as we expected when we are on stage. During the organizing step, it is time to take all the priority topics that you have written down and think about what order they should be presented in. Consider how these topics are going to flow from one to another. You don’t want to give the audience any jarring transitions that will cause difficulty to follow along. The trick is that you want you audience to be expectant of the logical progression in your story. For example, if your first attempt at an experiment failed then you want the audience to be thinking “well did you try method X?” right as you talk about the next experiment using method X. Anything that doesn’t fit well in the progression of the story, or add to the arc of your presentation should probably be cut. Only you can make the final decision on what and how you present, but don’t be afraid to rearrange and start over if things are not flowing from one succinct idea to the next.

Refinement

Now is the time to take this presentation for a test ride and see how things go. Practice in front of friends, practice in front of strangers, practice in front of older people and practice in front younger people. Practice, practice, practice. You need data on how your presentation is received. It is time to see who “gets it” without you needing to repeat yourself and what common questions come up during your Q and A. You can imagine that you will probably use different language when you present to different groups, but now is also the time to find out what works and what doesn’t. Take notes or use a short survey to see where things could be clearer and more efficient. Be aware that most people will say nice things when asked directly like “you did great!”  so an anonymous questionnaire can be helpful here. Try to figure out how to address the most common confusion and add it to your presentation. Rework the presentation until it is smooth, well rehearsed, and doesn’t get bogged down by any complex details. Make sure people are getting the “take home message”, and prepare your responses to any difficult questions you can think of.

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Execution

It’s game day and there is no turning back now. Wake up early well before you go on stage and rehearse what you want to say. Ideally this is done at least a few hours before you speak. You want to prime your brain so that you don’t need to try to remember on stage what you are going to say. You presentation should feel like second nature by this point. Rehearse one more time with an hour to go and then do something to relax so that you are not stressed out just before it is your turn to speak. Once you are on stage try not to think too much about the exact details of what you are presenting but rather make sure you are getting the main points across. If you have prepared well up to this point then you should be on time with no problem. If you get tripped up don’t worry, just try to pickup where you made a mistake and move on, there is no sense in dwelling on something if it didn’t come out right. Stick to your plan and be prepared to answer questions you might not expect. You can use some stalling tactics if you get a question you were not quite ready for, by saying something like “thank you for an excellent question [long pause], I think that….”. Remember to do you best and let the story carry the presentation.

Review

You did it, finally your presentation is over and now you can relax and enjoy the rest of the national meeting, right? Well there is still one more thing that needs to be done in order for you to keep improving at managing you time on stage. Once the presentation is done as soon as you can get to a quiet space, write out your thoughts on how everything went and where you think you could improve. Keep these notes for a few days but don’t look at them immediately. Check back once you have had some time to clear your head from the stress and pressure of needing to be on stage. You will be able to see more clearly then, and come up with ideas of how you can improve or fix problems. Remember, however, you never want to rehash old material for future presentations. Rather use your notes to try to improve the overall story and identify what does not work from this experience. Stay focused when you sit down to do this because it is easy to think “well this presentation is over I don’t need to worry about it anymore”. Keep in mind, that some of the best speakers spend literally hundreds of hours reviewing and refining their material, working out the best way to present. This type of constant refinement makes the presentation more efficient and easy to follow. Good luck! and remember being good at managing your time is a lot more about creating a coherent succinct story than it is about counting the minutes on stage.

Crafting the Right Presentation for Your Style of Science Communication

When tasked with designing a presentation for an upcoming speaking engagement, it can feel like a monumental task. Often many of us are tempted to rehash an old presentation into the new format needed and not worry too much about the content. This is a problematic way of thinking, since you are giving up the opportunity to improve on your previous work. For example, no self respecting scientist would rehash a old publication showing nearly the same work and call it an original paper, so why do speaking engagements get this treatment. Public presentations have a powerful impact on the audience and can make or break a person’s reputation. Increasingly in the digital age, public talks are recorded and uploaded to the internet and make a lasting impression with the audience that can be re-watched for years to come.

So why are we so quick to accept the mediocre standard of, “I’ll just use what I did from last year”? There is really no excuse for reusing old content, when your success depends on what content is being presented and how it you present it. I’m not only referring to visual aids like slide shows. The problem is that we get into the habit of using the same script for our introduction, our methods and so on. Once you become complacent with your material you stop innovating and less of your audience will be receptive to your message. As a communicator you are constantly being judged on how you present and what supporting material you use. Scientists will often allot months of time to perfect a paper. They ask the coauthors to comment and revise, use the help of independent reviewers to improve the publication, and edit according to the advice of the editor well before anything is made public. Conversely presentations are often only given a week or less of editing time, and maybe one practice run in front of an audience for constructive criticism. Giving a presentation should require as much effort as a publication, since it can actually reflect more on you than your most recent paper.

Example of copyedited manuscript

The editing

It is important to allow time and effort for the revision and editing of your work. It may take you a long time of careful refinement to finally find an effective way to communicate your topic. The key is to ask for feedback from others and not necessarily in a formal setting. Practice public speaking by sitting down with people and speaking off the top of your head and while you explain your work. Afterwards ask them if they understood all of the information and what was unclear, take notes on what can be improved. You can do this many times with different people and see how they understand the topic, after a while you will have a good spectrum of results on how to present to people with different backgrounds. Revise and improve on what language to use, think about how to address common questions people have, and so on. Eventually this type of practice will help fill gaps and reduce overall confusion when you communicate.

Who are you?

So how do you craft a presentation to fit your style? First there are several things you must consider. Every person has their strengths and weaknesses, for the most part weaknesses can be improved but you want to make good use of your strengths as well. For example, I remember hearing a student talk and his voice was powerful and dramatic. The topic was on medical research and and his booming voice made for strong emotional moments, however he did not win best talk of the meeting. This is because the visual aids were lacking, and the continuity of the story was somewhat difficult to follow. The point is figure out whatever you are good at and do it, but don’t forget to fill the gaps where you fall short as well. If you are comfortable in front of audiences let your charisma come through but be sure to use professional language as well. If you are nervous then work on relieving your tension and anxiety through practice and add your analytical skills to the talk. The key is to be well rounded enough so that the true personality and voice can shine through.

Degrowth Conference 2014 Photo by Eva Mahnke CC-BY-SA 13 Audimax Universität Leipzig

The audience

When you are making a new presentation your need to consider you audience before editing for content. Understanding who you are speaking to should be an important factor in deciding how to design your presentation. Consider the type of audience (e.g. students, public, colleagues) and general knowledge level. The level of knowledge and information you include needs to be balanced by the audience you  expect to have. Significant time will mostly be spent in the introduction if the audience is new to the material, but if they are all familiar you can pack in more information in the results. Be ready to think on your feet as well, if you planned for the general public and many experienced scientists show up, then you need to be prepared to explain your data thoroughly without any additional visual aids. This can be achieved by being well versed in the topic before you even begin to construct a presentation. Thinking ahead about the audience can alleviate a lot stress on the day you present.

The environment

When you are giving a talk the environment is an important thing to consider. Think not only of the type of presentation you will give (e.g. seminar, workshop, etc) but also the room and AV equipment that you will be using. In a large room with a small screen small text and figures will not be easy to read, however in a small classroom setting the same figure with small text could be legible. Will the room be dark or light? Will you be speaking in the morning or evening? Will you be the first speaker or the keynote? All of these factors will affect the attention level of your audience, and your presentation needs to be adjusted accordingly.

The context

Imagine that you are the fourth speaker at a professional meeting about aquatic invertebrates. Right away you already know that the audience is well versed in the topic and how many people might show up to the talk. Using this information on the context of your talk can help refine your presentation. All too often a student will get up to present at a national meeting spending the first few minutes giving an identical introduction to the speaker before. In this example you can leave out a lot of background because the session is designed to attract those who already know a lot about the subject. Furthermore, you are right in the middle of the session so the audience will already be thinking about the subject more deeply than in the first talk. If your research is new and controversial, better make sure there is time for questions at the end. If it is informative make sure to include resources where the audience can learn more. As a last note, if you are the final speaker in a session consider the fatigue of the audience and make sure to tailor your presentation so that it is not too complicated or long.

Following these simple ideas while constructing your presentation will set you up for success the next time you speak in public.

Finding Your Voice as a Science Communicator

Whether you work in the private industry or in the academic world, being able to communicate well is important. However, many people feel anxious or develop fear about speaking in public, which causes a them to sound shaky or unsure of themselves. If you are just starting out in the realm of public speaking, you may be struggling to establish your style, overcome the fear, and find your voice while presenting. Establishing a clear style that you identify with which helps create a speaking routine which can alleviate the stress of being on stage. Furthermore, developing your own unique voice is an important skill that can help you connect with the audience in a powerful way. In this post we explore a few tips to help you find your own unique voice for that next presentation.

Tyson - Apollo 40th anniversary

“Just be yourself”

Often this advice is given to the beginner, “just be yourself” when you are presenting before the public eye. However, when you are new to communication there isn’t a reference point for the on stage “self”. In our lives we have many different “selfs” that we use throughout the day. For example, the person you are at work is generally, very different from the person you are at home with your significant other. The point is, that in the beginning when speaking in public, you will need to do some trial and error work to find the perfect style and voice that fits who you are. A good way to start exploring what that style and voice might be is through emulation. Emulation is a great way to learn a new task well, while still allowing yourself room to grow and adapt to your own style. Think about the people in your field who inspire you and can communicate well, dissect what they are doing and try to emulate it for you next presentation. Practice in front of a mirror (or record yourself on an iPhone), then try it with some friends who can give you constructive feedback. It is important to make sure you are not outright copying someone, but rather learning what they do successfully to help you develop your own style.

As much as we hate to admit it, the audience is not only judging what you say (information) and how you say it (presentation), but also your voice and style. When you are communicating you are not only presenting the information that you are trying to communicate, but who you are as a person as well. A monotone speaker with no enthusiasm will bore the audience and no one will remember the content. So it is important to take time exploring different leaders in your field and see what is working for them. By emulating a well established voice, you can take the worry and uncertainty out of your presentations and begin developing your own style.

An example of two popular science communicators

Almost unequivocally the two of the most popular science communicators around right now are Bill Nye “the science guy” and Neil deGrasse Tyson. What is interesting about each of them is that they are often communicating nearly the same information, but have very different styles and voices that allow them to get their message across. The idea is that if your personality is rich and unique to you, it is an effective tool to communicate and will be listened to.

Bateau et voie lactée (19863443706)

Bill Nye is full of childhood curiosity with fun and imagination about science. He communicates how amazing the world is, a style he developed on his TV show where he focused on teaching science to kids. He uses exciting language with lots of exclamatory sentences to grab the attention of the audience. Neil on the other hand, uses wonderment and amazement of the universe that is bigger than we can imagine to inspire others. He conjures up the image that we can simply gaze out to the stars and wonder what more unexplained parts of the universe are still out there. Neil is an authoritative speaker that uses carefully constructed language and dramatic pauses to draw in the listener. Both Bill Nye and Neil deGrasse Tyson are very effective at science communication but the differences lie in their personalities that they have developed over the years. There is no right or wrong answer here, the idea is that whatever your voice and style is embrace it fully and it will be a great advantage when communicating.

Elements of communication style

Adding humor to your presentation may help lighten the mood, however you need to make sure that using humor fits your personality. If you are generally a serious person trying to be funny you may end up forcing it and not engage the audience like you expected. On the other hand being light and jovial may be exactly the hook that you need  to use with the audience.

Drama, and emotional postures and speech might be perfect if you are looking to inspire the audience to take action or move them emotionally. Make sure, however, that the content lends itself to a dramatic or emotional tone. Being  overly dramatic can cause the audience to see you as pretentious and disconnect. Consider the topic, setting and audience carefully before you use this strategy with your voice and style.

An unbiased neutral (not monotone!) voice can be used if you are dealing with controversy or difficult topics. If you have watched the news you may have noticed that news anchors try to be neutral in many aspects, such as tone, dress, and body language. The idea is that using clear unambiguous speech and will not bias the story or information being communicated. This style allows the audience to create their own opinions and ideas in an atmosphere that does not influence their thinking.

Finally, be you and be effective

There are many different ways to solve this puzzle of finding your voice while speaking, however the one that works is the one that is effective for your own unique situation. Remember to try different styles as you gain experience and practice in front of friends that will give you honest constructive feedback. Trying things that work and finding what doesn’t will help you develop a unique voice that will aid you for many years in the future.

How to Communicate Science Using a Story Arc

Often times when presenting or speaking in a science communication setting, people feel compelled to use the format of a peer reviewed paper. The traditional, introduction, methods, results/discussion, and conclusion are suitable for the written word, however is not the best choice for the medium of public speaking. The main problem is that the written word can be reviewed, reread, and contemplated at the reader’s own pace. Where as, in a presentation the audience must keep up with the speaker or they can get lost in the details. For the most part almost every story follows a distinct format that allows the audience to be drawn in and immersed in the message. Preparing your next presentation with a clear plan and format will not only increase the audience’s retention but also engage them, making your next presentation well received.

Eduard Geselschap Die Gutenachtgeschichte

Develop your game plan.

The most important part of spoken presentations is to make sure you have a well defined plan. Take time before you make any PowerPoint slides or graphics to decide what material you want to use, how will it add to your message, and what your goals are for the presentation. Think about the setting and format of the presentation as well. If you are only allowed five minutes for a short elevator pitch to a room full the general public, you will need a very different format from a 45 minute seminar to professional colleagues. Even in the shortest of presentations you can still fit all the aspects of a story arc, but you will need to be very concise and use well rehearsed language. Take considerable time to brainstorm and write out thoughts, then return to your ideas, days or even weeks later and see if everything stills fits with your goals.

Starting at the beginning, the introduction.

First you will need to set the stage for what you did and how you did it. For the most part you can take the main ideas of your introduction and methods (from a peer reviewed paper) and combine them for a spoken presentation. Remember, however, that for the most part you only need to provide a setting and backdrop for where and how your story (research) take place. You will not need to use excruciating detail of every method and procedure that you did, just the gist so that the audience has a point of reference. Additionally, craft sound and logical reasoning  for why the research or project was undertaken and why the audience should care. Think about how most movies begin, very early on there are logical sequences of scenes to setup background, to build up characters, and try to get the audience to identify with what is being shown to them. In film, the idea is to get the audience to believe in the illusion that they are actually part of the action they see on the screen. In the same way use words and imagery in your presentation so that the audience is joining you on a journey and become immersed in your work.

Build up tension and add some rising action.

Every story from fairy tales to epics, has some sort of rising action like tension or obstacles that need to be overcome. The purpose is to keep the story interesting, and make the audience want to keep paying attention. Usually this is in the form of a series of actions that keep the main character from completing his or her goal. This keeps a story interesting because we experience the same sort of complex obstacles in real life, and the rising action in a story helps us identify with the characters. When constructing your next presentation you will want to think about all the problems, be it external or internal that were preventing your work from progressing. In some cases this can be dramatic as a major hurricane destroying all your monitoring stations and threatening lives of the researchers, or it can be something more administrative such as the difficulty of funding. The key is to combine elements that create rising tension into your story so that it flows naturally. Make sure to add points along the way about the different struggles such as failed experiments, misadventures in field work, or fighting against biased opinions of colleagues. Whatever the case may be, the point is to include details of rising action in your presentation so that the audience can identify with you and become more engaged.

Define a turning point in your research or project.

Once you have established an introduction and some sort of rising tension in your presentation, it is then time to work on the climax or turning point of your work. This is the point you have been building up to through background (introduction) and established difficulties (rising tension) and the next step is now to show the fruit of that labor. By now in your presentation you probably have the audience following along with your story and already anticipating what happens next. This is the point where you want to show the results of your research and work that you have done. The point is that until now in your presentation it has been unclear to the audience how things might play out. Much like the climax in a story, you will want to show that whatever outcome or successes you have had. Keep in mind, however, that not every story has a happy ending. Even if your experiments or research didn’t pan out, this is still the climax of your story and should be presented to the audience. Science is often a series of failed attempts which leads to refinement and eventual success, which is enough for a climax or turning point.

What are the consequences and falling action.

At this point, it’s time to let the audience know what the results mean and how your understanding of them has affected the rest of your work. For example, how has your hypothesis changed about species X now that you know that they are not adversely affected by the new pesticide that was tested. It is a good idea to also include information about impending publications or reports and how this information might shift the community’s current paradigm. If any of the audience members want to follow up on your work after the talk, providing resources (e.g. links to publications, posters or hand outs) will increase engagement. It is important to make sure that you tie up any lose ends about the project or research so that the story has a complete and coherent feeling. Keep in mind that the audience is likely feeling fatigue at this time from paying attention, so it is best to remain on point and be concise. Generally speaking if you haven’t brought up something by now, then it is probably best to leave it out rather than trying to introduce new topics late in the presentation. If you realize there are crucial details missing from the story then you need to rearrange either the introduction or rising tension.

Childrens' books at a library

Final conclusions and summary.

Here is where you want to present your final closing thoughts on the information and how it all ties together. If you have been following the above format there is a good chance that the audience is also making the same connections based on the information you have given them. Being concise here is also good practice, make the final connections you need to and summarize what you have told them earlier in the presentation. For the most part by following these simple guidelines your presentations will be easier to follow and engage more of the audience since they will become immersed in your story.

Communicating When Conflict Arises and Using it to Your Advantage

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Often when you present to an audience, you are communicating to a large diverse group, many of whom have different points view from you. The majority of your audience will likely have different thoughts and feelings due to factors such as; culture, education, beliefs, and life experience. When communicating to a diverse audience there is always a chance for conflict to arise, particularly during workshops or discussions where an agreement needs to me made. Whether it be in the form of a vocal minority making accusations during a Q and A session, or opposing groups arguing in a workshop conflict plays a major role in communication. As a communicator it is vitally important to not only be prepared for conflict and how to resolve it, but to also be ready to use conflict in a positive way to communicate more clearly and make your work better.

The majority of people in the world do not like conflict or confrontation and will generally will try to avoid it if possible. In many cases the word conjures up images of violence and ill will towards others. Although in reality there are many types of conflict most of which do not involve violence and can be used constructively. Conflict can be defined in different ways, such as; as a serious disagreement, an argument, an incompatibility between opinions and principles, or even a prolonged armed struggle. Despite the many definitions of conflict most of the time conflict centers around a simple disagreement of ideals. As a communicator being able to recognize and deal with conflict can help transfer knowledge to your audience and make for a smooth presentation. In this post we will see some examples of how to use conflict to improve a message as well as tips for resolving conflict. Here I am using the generic definition of conflict as a disagreement or incompatible point of view.

Using Conflict to Your Advantage When Communicating

The majority of us will attempt to avoid conflict, even if it blatantly obvious and unavoidable. This is the first misconception of conflict that needs to be changed. Conflict is not necessarily a negative experience, since it can be used in a constructive way to improve our work or character. Conflict can come in the form of a simple disagreement or it can explode into a storm of vitriol and hate. The key to using conflict as an advantage when communicating, is knowing when to speak your mind candidly without the fear of backlash. As with many aspects of communicating, preparing before you actually present is immensely important.

First, you must understand both sides of the topic or argument. Whether you think you are right or backed up by empirical facts is irrelevant in a conflict. Before you communicate it is more important to understand the entirety of the topic. Preparing with as much information as possible will help you learn where misconceptions arise and address before they turn into a conflict. Remember the old saying “there are three sides to every story, your side their side and the truth.” So keep in mind that most people, despite our best intentions, put a bias on the information we present. Try to keep the material as objective as possible to make your message clear and concise. Think about things like how the other side might perceive the information through a subjective lens, and prepare information to address those biases in your presentation.

Second, you will want to understand your audience, how they think, and how they might respond to your presentation. Remember that they may be more open minded than you give them credit for. For example in climate science there is actually a lot more people who believe climate change is happening than not. There is very vocal minority believe it to be a conspiracy theory.  And finally there is a large group which simply need more information to make a decision.  If someone were to disagree with what you present in a climate talk, it may simply be from being misinformed or lack of information. Knowing your audience can help inform people and resolve misconceptions within the audience with facts.

Third, consider how conflict might scrutinize your work and improve the quality of your message. If you present a controversial topic and create a large atmosphere of conflict in doing so, it may mean that your message is convoluted or difficult to understand. Knowing whether your audience is misinformed or that your message is not well constructed is key. Conflict can help you discover holes in your story, reveal unknown biases in your work, and address underlying issues or controversies. Instead of there simply being a misinformed audience, you may need to reevaluate your work and improve the way it is presented. Remember to not take anything too personally the idea is to use the conflict in a positive way to address issues.

Fourth, consider what the goal of your presentation is. Think about what your ideal outcome would be for the discussion session, workshop, presentation, Q and A etc. By taking time to think about the outcome you can make sure that what you are communicating is in line with the goals you mean to accomplish. Conflict will arise if your goals and what you are communicating do not align. If conflict does occur it may be a indicator that your message is unclear or that the audience has begun to mistrust you because your goals feel like a covert subterfuge. Make sure that your message and also the language you are using convey your goals clearly.

Finally, in Margaret Heffernan’s TED talk she explains how conflict can be used to solve problems, improve quality of work by a group or individual, and how taking a risk of dealing with conflict can actually save lives. Margaret gives a good overview (not to mention that she is a great communicator in general) of how we need to change our outlook towards conflict and use it in a positive way.

Resolving Conflict Through Communication Skills

In times when conflict is not beneficial to you or your message it is likely that resolution methods be used. Examine what the source of the conflict is and  try to see if it can be quickly resolved by meeting someone’s need. You can then try to negotiate to resolve the situation, but if that doesn’t work you will need to manage the conflict carefully to resolve it. the manner by which conflicts are resolved can have big impacts on the relationships between people and organizations. 3 Avoiding conflict or trying to superficially smooth over a problem between interested parties can help in the short term, but doesn’t solve the overall problem and therefore conflict will likely occur in the future. 1

Often conflict is not the caused by the literal problem or topic at hand, but rather caused by the response of the people who are invested in the problem. 2 As a communicator one way to dissolve conflict is to begin by understanding the problem thoroughly. Learn who is involved, what it is about, type of conflict (misunderstanding, dependent on circumstances, misdirected, etc.), and overarching personal beliefs.  Being able to trust and work together between parties that have opposing views is critical for success, with communication being the key to building trust. Knowing the cause of the conflict can then help you work towards a resolution that will diffuse it. 2 Work with the people involved to develop a better understanding of both sides of the situation. Consider how the conflict evolved over time or is expressed, and think about potential solutions that will be mutually agreeable. 2  Most people will recognize that investing time and resources to resolving a conflict is mutually beneficial to everyone involved. Be straightforward and name the conflict and point out that it is in everyone’s best interest to resolve it.

In the most extreme cases a third party may be needed to intervene as a non biased moderator. In these cases relationships and trust can be rebuilt through the mediator. It is important to remember that even with the help of a mediator and all the resolution techniques, sometimes you may not be able to resolve the conflict. In those cases it is probably best for everyone to walk away, allow emotions and tempers to calm down and try again another time.

References

1. Dant, R. P., & Schul, P. L. (1992). Conflict resolution processes in contractual channels of distribution. The Journal of Marketing, 38-54.

2. Girard, K., & Koch, S. J. (1996). Conflict Resolution in the Schools: A Manual for Educators. Jossey-Bass Publishers, 350 Sansome Street, San Francisco, CA 94101..

3. Mohr, J., & Spekman, R. (1994). Characteristics of partnership success: partnership attributes, communication behavior, and conflict resolution techniques. Strategic management journal, 15(2), 135-152.