Exploring the unique challenges facing experts looking to share their expertise with a non-specialist audience.
Our approach works in helping scientists and other experts to present their ideas effectively.
There is a difference between being really good at what you do, and being able to share that with others. One of our clients employs brilliant scientists, and they would be the first to admit that they can find communicating the impact of their science to a general audience tricky.
Doing great science is vital. Increasingly, the reputation of great scientists depends on their ability to be able to communicate exactly why their work is so important, why we should all care about it, and why their vital work should continue to be funded.
We have worked with research scientists from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (www.ceh.ac.uk) for many years. A key initiative was to support their project to share the outcomes and benefits of their science with a wider population at a high profile, high impact open forum for business leaders and science stakeholders from the local and national communities.
Facilitating scientists to communicate their impact
We facilitated a communications workshop which aimed to provide delegates with the opportunity to:
- Gain clarity on the impact of CEH scientific outputs, and enable a forum for scientists to be able to rehearse their messages.
- Share information about related areas of science being promoted, and the links.
- Consider the external environment, and how CEH science output contributes to the wider agenda.
- Practice the ability to present complex scientific issues to the general public.
- Practice answers to the difficult questions.
- Promoting CEH as an effective organisation.
Presenting versus facilitating
During the design of the event, it became apparent that this was far more than simply teaching delegates how to present complex work to an audience. In reality, scientists communicate all the time, and we needed to provide both a unique skills boost while simultaneously ensuring that every participant left feeling more confident in their ability to communicate to high profile stakeholders and to disseminate across (rather than within) the traditional boundaries.
We knew this couldn’t be a traditional workshop. Without teaching communication skills we’d have failed in our brief, but a pure taught session would have left our delegates knowing that they knew how to communicate, but the challenge was always going to be in the context specific, high stakes deployment of that skill. The core communication skills and presentation structures could be taught along the way, but the objective for this session was far more far reaching.
It required a more strategic mindset and an approach that focused on facilitating scientists to engage with (as opposed to broadcast to) their audience, retaining their status as competent professionals without bombarding and confusing their audience with jargon and layers of technical complexity. We needed to share best practice, whilst providing techniques & tools, practice and feedback opportunities to allow the specific challenges of audience management to be met with confidence and style. Helping these technical experts put theory into highly polished practice, and to build both their skills and confidence, was key.
We work with CEH scientists regularly, and many remind me of the impact that this session had on their communication. The thing they tell me they remember is about ‘the why’. It is critical that, when communicating complex issues, we focus on communicating the why. Not why the work is vital, important and impactful (communicating from our perspective). More, it requires real emphasis on why the audience would care. Why is the subject that we are talking about important and relevant to the current priorities and drivers of your stakeholders? Once you can hook them with this, they are far more likely to stay with you as you explain the complexities of the rest of your work.
Interested in how our mindset approach?
Learn more about how we can differentiate between teaching, presenting and facilitating for your key communicators.