Today we host a post by Tatyana Dubich, Speaker of the Helmholtz Juniors Communication Group.
Enjoy the reading!
Have you ever tried to explain your PhD project to your Grandma? Than you know already delivering complex ideas could be a real hassle!
On the 30th of March nine young scientists showed us how it’s done during the preliminary FameLab competition at the Helmholtz Center for Infection Research (HZI) (https://www.helmholtz-hzi.de/en/). The participants gave us a glimpse into a variety of projects, from autoimmunity to aviation, convincing the audience that their scientific projects are the most exciting of all.
Seven different institutions were represented on the science communication competition. Among them were HZI, Twincore, Technische Universität Braunschweig, the Medical School Hannover, the Leibniz Universität Hannover, the Max-Planck-Institut für Eisenforschung and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht.
The event started with warm welcome words of Prof. Dirk Heinz, the scientific director of HZI. Prof. Heinz introduced the members of the jury and participants, and in his speech he underlined the importance of science communication on every step of a research career. However, I believe, the importance of science communication is far beyond just one’s scientific career.
Research gets more and more complex and it is important to deliver it to public in an engaging, but also clear and accurate way. And that’s what FameLab is all about! The three whales for winning the competition are content, clarity and charisma. The rules are simple: participants have to explain their projects in less than a three minutes, being within one square meter space on stage just with the use of objects they can carry!
This year’s jury consisted of four members: Johannes Kaufmann (editor of Braunschweigischer Zeitung), Prof. Dr. Michael Steinert (TU Braunschweig, Infection Biology), Claudia Gorille (Journalist) and Axel Richter (Braunschweigische Stiftung). The jury were to choose the best presentation based on best didactics, scientific context, body language and the most convincing line.
The competition was extremely tough. Every short presentation carried the audience into excitement and challenges of the field. Even the most experienced critics could not predict the winner. The competition kept the tension on till the very end. I have to say, it was a real nailbiter!
Yet, the first prize was snatched by Panagiota Mamareli from the TWINCORE for her presentation on “The role of intracellular fatty acid metabolism on intestinal immune responses”.
The second prize went to Aniruddha Dutta from the Max-Planck-Institut für Eisenforschung. He showed a complex matter of steel improvement using just an ordinary Oreo cookie! The audience also got to make their own champion.
Nicola Ganter, from the Technische Universität Braunschweig won the audience prize. The winners of this round of FameLab will get a money price together with a media training from the best coaches in science communication. Furthermore they will take part in the German final in Bielefeld.
After every presentation, the jury gave feedback to the participants to help them improve their presentation. I believe, that those advises would be useful not only to the participants, but also to every presenter. So, here is what we learned:
- Passion and confidence are the key for a successful presentation: only an inspired scientist can get a listener excited about his/her project and gain the attention. If you don’t believe yourself, that your project is the coolest one, how are you going to convince the audience?
- Find a healthy balance between complex ideas and didactic: think of a most clear and comprehensive metaphors. Just, don’t go too far! Every thing you tell to the audience has to be correct! For example, it might seem as a good idea to compare a reproducible experiment with a unicorn, but don’t go over the rainbow!
- In your story telling the scientific context and its future perspective is important. Tell your audience what motivated you to do your project and how it can bring us to a brighter future. Take-home message is key!
- Use your voice. Speak loudly and confidently; don’t be afraid to use the whole range of your voice and change the tempo. Go fast, slow down, pause to make concepts sink in. Even the most exciting lines of your talk will go unnoticed if you keep robotic tone through the whole talk.
- Use your body. Move towards your audience when you want to highlight your point and go back in between. Body language is engaging: don’t stand still. People are not used to listen to a talking monument and most probably won’t take it seriously.
- Grab their attention from the beginning: use jokes to make them laugh or a statistics to scare them. For example, did you know that doctoral researchers have two times higher chance to get crazy than the general population? True story!
- Involve the audience into your presentation. Ask them questions and make them choose between different solutions. Surprise them and keep them awake. More: react to the conditions! Is it hot in the auditorium? How can your invention impact this problem?
- Communicate not only the idea, but the scientific process as well. A broad audience doesn’t necessary know how the experiments go or how failure and “Eureka!” moments go hand in hand in research. Give the audience some insights: let them follow the process.
- There is a law in theater: “One must not put a loaded rifle on the stage if no one is thinking of firing it”. The same rule applies here. Use all the props you brought with you on stage, or don’t bring them at all. If you come to the stage wearing mouse ears and a tail, everyone will be waiting for an of what they are for.
There is no science without science communication: we all have to communicate our ideas, independent of the field of study. Science communications is not only communication of science to the public, but it is also communication with fellow scientists and future collaborators, experts in our field or not. So I believe, that those advices I shared with you would be helpful to your everyday life as well.
Every year FameLab brings together the best science communicators, we can get inspired and learn from. If you would like to know more about successful FameLab presentations, just check out official FameLab channel on YouTube . It’s worth watching! And, of course, join the competition next year, if you’re up to it!