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,

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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

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The Increasing Need for Science Communication

When I was freshman attending the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, it was required of me to take a communication class. At the time I was an engineering student and a  communication class was a general education requirement for almost all majors and incoming students. I remember thinking, “why do I have to take that dumb communication class.” I had never taken a communication class in high school, and I understand why I had to learn it now when I wanted

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Three Tips to Improve Your Public Speaking

Being good at a task is often attributed to talent, genetics, or plain luck. Although this is the common way of thinking, it ignores some fundamental facts about how our brains work, and the way we learn. Humans learn through trial and error combined with repetition. Take a young child for example, if you watch them while they learn to walk, you already have seen how many attempts (probably in the thousands) it takes for them to complete their first few wobbly

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Using the Potential of Anecdotes to Communicate Science

Story telling by way of anecdotes is a powerful tool that has been used throughout human history. Anecdotes are short, amusing or interesting stories about a real incidents or persons. However, often times scientists are reluctant to use them for fear of losing the audience or sounding unintelligent, particularly when speaking to colleagues. There is a tendency in science communication to revert to the format of the written word, most commonly the format of the generic scientific paper (i.e. Introduction, Methods, Results and

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Charisma to Get Your Point Across

Some time ago I heard a story on one of my favorite podcasts, Planet Money (Episode 508: A Bet On The Future Of Humanity) about a bet that was made, between an Economist and a Biologist, based on the fate of humanity. The story goes that Dr. Paul Ehrlich believed that humans were careening towards disaster due to the rapid use of natural resources and population strain put on the environment. Meanwhile, Dr. Julian Simon believed that due to the adaptive

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Striking a Balance Between the Delivery and Your Message When Speaking in Public

Sometimes you may experience great presentation that does everything right; a good story, interesting data, good visuals and has the wow factor that keeps the audience attentive. I can remember having attended many different seminars based solely on the topic. In those cases I was always hoping the speaker would interesting as well. I am a science nerd so it is easy for me to be excited about someone who had done (geological) research in some far off land. I remember attending special sessions

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The Science of Public Speaking

Have you ever been told when preparing for a presentation that you shouldn’t have an outline slide or always have an introduction that is one third the length of total talk?  Perhaps a friend said to you “based on he audience you are speaking to you should …”. Or maybe even your boss said “last time I spoke at that meeting I did this … and it went really well”. Often times we are bombarded with these bits of speaking advice which

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Common Speaking Mistakes We All Make (And How To Fix Them!) Part 2

Here we continue with the simple fixes for common speaking mistakes that we all make. If you haven’t checked out part one you may want here. Mistake Number 5: Putting stuff on slides that you are not going to talk about If I had a dime for every scientific talk that did this then I would have enough money to buy a yacht. Generally this is considered a beginner mistake, where the speaker is trying to explain their work and gets

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Common Speaking Mistakes We All Make (And How To Fix Them!) Part 1

Speaking in public is one of the most common fears that people share. The threat of humiliation and embarrassment in front of a crowd is, for some, more terrifying than death. Regardless of your own personal feelings towards speaking in public, in most every profession you will likely need to give a presentation or talk sometime in the future. Additionally, in the sciences with the current political situation and many people harboring a distrust of science, public communication is more important than

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