Episode 4 – How to give a better science talk

All scientists need to give talks but being able to give a brilliant talk takes skill. Are you wondering how to best keep your audience’s attention? How to design slides that enhance, rather than distract from what you’re saying? And how to tackle your inevitable nerves?

This week Jen and Michael chat about how to give a better science talk. Listen for our thoughts and advice on how to plan, design and deliver a fantastic talk plus tips from two of our UniMelb SciComm students, Randy Mann and Stephanie Wong.

Here are a few good reads to help next time you’re preparing a talk:

We also mentioned canva.com and piktochart.com which are both really useful tools for improving your talk visuals.


Jen (00:00:00)
Welcome to Let’s Talk SciComm, a podcast by the University of Melbourne Science Communication Teaching Team. I’m Dr Jen Martin and my co-host is Dr Michael Wheeler and we believe science isn’t finished until it’s communicated.

Jen (00:00:37)
Hello and welcome back to another episode of Let’s Talk SciComm.
I’m Jen and I’m very happy to be joined by my wonderful co-host, Michael.
G’day, Michael.

Michael (00:00:49)
Hey Jen, I’m very excited to be back this week, talking all about how to craft and deliver a brilliant talk.

Jen (00:01:00)
Yeah, it was pretty hard to decide, wasn’t it, what we wanted to cover in our opening season of Let’s Talk SciComm, but it occurred to us that there are so many situations in which scientists need to give talks.
You know, there’s the obvious, of course, the conference talks that we’re all very used to. But we know we also have lots of students listening. And if you’re a student, it’s quite likely that you have assignments coming up, you have situations in which you need to give talks about your work. Of course, if you’re a PhD student, you’re going to have milestone talks and seminars. In lab meetings, we often need to give talks. It’s pretty common that we give talks about our work.

Michael (00:01:35)
Yeah, it’s really common, and there’s even science communication competitions out there. I’m sure you’ll have heard of the Three Minute Thesis Competition, FameLab and a lot more that I won’t be able to list off now, but they can be really valuable. I mean, I took part in the Three Minute Thesis Competition over in UWA in Perth. And yeah, it was a great experience.

Jen (00:01:57)
Absolutely, and I think, thinking about your experience of the 3MT (Three Minute Thesis), it’s so valuable to learn how to be concise. The thought of putting your entire PhD work, what’s that? 3, 4 years into 3 minutes? You just kind of think, that’s ridiculous, I couldn’t possibly do that. But then of course, you work out how to do it and you realize that working out that key essence, that main message of your story of your research. What am I trying to find out? Why does it matter or what did I find out and what does that mean?
I think that’s so valuable and if you think about it, we know that a lot of what we write doesn’t get read by very many people. It’s a very depressing but true fact that if you’re writing a thesis at the moment who’s going to read it? Obviously, your supervisors. Hopefully your examiners are going to read it very carefully, but beyond that, maybe a partner, maybe a few labmates, maybe your parents. But potentially very few people are going to read that thesis and even papers – we know a lot of them hardly get read and hardly get cited.
But if you get the opportunity to speak about your research, whether that be at a conference or in one of these other settings, it’s a huge opportunity for your research to get noticed. It can really raise the visibility of what you’re doing. Because someone who’s listening, who knows? Maybe they’re the perfect future collaborator or a future supervisor or a thesis examiner, or indeed an employer who’s going to listen to you and be blown away by not just what you’ve done, but how you tell that story and how you engage your audience.
There are often prizes to be won. It’s a really important skill to be able to stand up in front of an audience or behind a screen, as has become the case so often recently. That you get up and you wow people with the way you engage an audience and the way you explain your work in a simple and understandable way.

Michael (00:03:32)
And you might even be presenting to the, to the public, where you might inspire someone to become a scientist in your area. Maybe there’s a rich donor in the audience who might donate to your research. Which is actually a huge component of how research gets done, philanthropy.
It’s probably a good idea to, to do a lot of these different types of oral presentations that might be recorded, there might be examples of them online. Because it certainly bodes well if you are applying for a job or a promotion or grant. It’s highly likely the people making the decisions about those things are going to be checking your online profile and they might come across a brilliant talk that you have given in the past.

Jen (00:04:27)
Absolutely, and also the reality is that a job interview is effectively giving a talk. It’s slightly different because it’s more Q&A style. But again, it’s about how you concisely and clearly respond to questions, deliver ideas, make eye contact with your audience, communicate with your body that you’re interested, and excited to be there. I mean, public speaking is just so essential.
But of course, it’s very easy to say yes, so I will become an excellent public speaker. But there’s a whole lot of steps, I think, that go into giving a good talk. There’s a whole planning process that I think back to myself as a PhD student preparing to go to a conference. For me, the process was write an abstract, often, often before you knew what your results were, so that was always tricky. And then make some slides, and practice speaking to them essentially.
It took me a long time to learn that there’s a whole lot of other steps involved. So things like what’s the purpose of this talk? What’s my goal here? What am I trying to achieve? Who’s my audience going to be? What do I want them to do differently or feel differently or think differently? And how am I going to deliver a message that will resonate with that audience? What’s the big picture here? What am I actually trying to achieve? I think there’s a lot that goes into giving a good talk.

Michael (00:05:43)
The point that you made before Jen and our previous podcast about how to not be boring in relation to respecting your audience, I think, is, is so important.
And there’s a great quote that I think gives a real good sense of this by this guy Jenkin Lloyd Jones, who said, “A speech is a solemn responsibility. The man who makes a bad speech to two hundred people wastes only half an hour of his own time. But he wastes one hundred hours of the audience’s time. More than four days, which should be a hanging offense.”

Jen (00:06:18)
I mean, it’s a terribly out of date quote, isn’t it? Not just the hanging offense, but the complete lack of gender equity. I just want to say it’s not about being a man. But, but I think the point is good. It might only be a small amount of your time, but if you think about the collective time you’re wasting of an audience if you haven’t prepared well, you don’t pitch it well, you haven’t thought about this audience. It’s big – it’s a huge responsibility to give a good talk, I think.

Michael (00:06:42)
Yeah, it is a huge responsibility and it is a very outdated quote. This guy was around from 1843 to 1919. They were still doing public hangings in the US up till 1936. So well… it’s, it’s a good thing that someone like Jenkin isn’t going to be sitting in the audience today, if you’re giving a talk.
But in terms of then actually getting into the nuts and bolts of it and starting with the opening. We did talk about the opening context and providing an opening hook to really grab the attention of your audience at the beginning. And we talked about that in our previous podcast, how to not be boring, so please go back to that podcast and listen there for more details.
But just briefly to say that it is important to say something at the start of your talk that will grab the attention of your audience. And it is important to start with the wider picture.

Jen (00:07:36)
Yeah, absolutely. And I think if you don’t start with something really captivating, you risk losing your audience for good. It is so much about respecting that audience and recognising what a privilege it is to be demanding their time and their attention. Because if you don’t think carefully about what’s relevant to them, what’s going to be understandable to them.
One of the questions we always ask our students Michael is, what can you leave out? Just this recognition that, as a scientist, we’re so passionate about what we do. We’re so involved in what we do. We know so much about our research and just having to recognise that it’s unlikely the audience will feel the same way, and so you’re going to have to pick and choose.
You can’t go over time, going over time is hugely disrespectful. So what are you going to leave out? What’s the key messages that you want people to walk away with? And how are you going to keep them interested? Is it appropriate to do some form of audience interaction?
You need to make sure that you are speaking in a way that convinces people that this is something that you do and you love. So it drives me crazy when you hear people slipping into passive voice when they’re talking about their own work. We might fall into traps of writing in passive voice, although in a future episode we’re certainly going to talk about why we don’t like using passive voice. But suddenly, people start speaking in passive voice and you just think, why is anyone going to listen to this? Be yourself, share your enthusiasm and use language and a style of speaking that sounds like you.

Michael (00:09:05)
Yeah, there’s so many good points in there. And thinking about interacting with your audience as well, there will be, you know, a range of opportunities in different ways to do that, and you can be a little bit creative there.
I remember for my PhD which was on sedentary behavior, exercise and sedentary behavior. Sometimes, at the end of a talk, because I had been talking about the dangers of prolonged sitting, I would strategically at the end of the talk invite people to stand for the last statement that I made or whatever, which was a way of tricking the audience into giving me a standing ovation.

Jen (00:09:45)
And did you point that out to them that that’s what you were doing or did you just soak up the glory?

Michael (00:09:50)
I did, yeah.

Michael (00:09:51)
It’s funny, you know. You’ll invite people to stand after talking about the dangers of prolonged sitting, and you know, it’s usually only a handful of people do. So, but all it takes is you know, one person to be standing up when they clap, and then it counts as a standing ovation, right?

Jen (00:10:11)
You are such a schemer, Michael. To think I’ve known you for all these years, and I didn’t know that that’s how you operate, such stealth.

Michael (00:10:18)
Very sneaky, yeah.
Yeah, and look, then it, then it’s you know it, it also comes down to a narrative, and I think there’s a lot to say on this, so I think we probably would want to do a full podcast on narrative, but just briefly, it really comes down to avoiding delivering a series of facts. And it’s more about trying to structure your talk in a way that’s, uhm, more along the lines of a story.
So you know, things like inserting yourself or your own experiences, using characters, maybe describing an event or scenario that had an outcome, or identifying a problem or challenge that needs to be overcome or was overcome. So there’s lots of different ways to do that.

Jen (00:11:05)
Yeah, we definitely need to come back to it because it’s just so central to giving a good talk and to doing good writing as well. I think the key thing to have in mind is just that people are interested in problems. All the good stories in the world are about problems and people overcoming problems, and that’s essentially what research is. We identify a problem, and we try and find a way to fix it. So make sure everyone in the room listening to you is clear: what is this problem? What’s the question you’re trying to answer? What’s the problem you’re trying to solve? Why does it matter? And then it’s very hard for people not to be interested.
So I think that’s a key trap that a lot of us fall into, as people talking about science. We tend to just focus on the facts, and we recite all of the facts and expect that people will care. And of course, we know that people don’t always care about facts.
But I think one of the other traps that I’ve seen a lot of scientists fall into, and I’m sure all of us can recall a conference talk we’ve seen where it was the slides. It was the slides that just destroyed the talk. And of course, there are plenty of situations in which it’s great to give a talk without slides at all.
If I talk to school groups, which I do quite a lot of, generally I won’t use any slides or I’ll just use pictures. I won’t have any words on my slides at all. But if you are going to a conference or trying to attract funding, you know, there are situations in which I think slides are expected and can be quite useful.
But we just have to be so careful with how we go about using slides because sometimes, you feel like the slides are the central show, and the person is just this afterthought. And of course it has to be the reverse. Your slides should be there to enhance what you’re saying and the message you’re sharing. And the minute they distract from you, then you’ve kind of lost the plot, I think.
So I guess our message is always that less is more. You always want to prioritise visuals over words. You want your slides to be clear and clean and essentially just not distracting because there’s an effect which I learned about a couple of years ago called the Colavita effect, named after a psychologist Colavita. And what this effect shows is that if you, if you’ve got a human adult in front of you and you simultaneously provide them with two pieces of information, one visual and one audio, so one they’re taking in with their eyes and one they’re taking in with their ears, an adult will always preference what they can see over what they can hear. It’s not a conscious choice.
We look at things before we hear them, and that has really important consequences for those of us making slides and talking to slides. Because what that means is that the amount of time it takes your audience to read everything that’s on your slide or to decipher whatever you’ve provided visually, perhaps a complex diagram. As much as they think they can multitask, none of us are good at multitasking, or essentially none of us are good at multitasking. And what that means is that in that time, your audience isn’t listening to a word you say. So we have to provide less text. We have to make sure we build our text sequentially so we’ve never got words on the screen that we’re not actually speaking to yet.
So I guess that means that we have to get better at making visually good slides. So if people don’t know anything about Canva, it’s a great online resource to be able to make things that look visually very engaging but simple. There’s BioRender. There’s all sorts of easy to use graphic design programs now. There’s animation resources, we’ll link them.
I think we just have to be aware of how much we can potentially distract our audience. One of the other things that we frequently do is you know, we’ve just published a great paper. We’ve slaved over this amazing figure for a paper, we think, Oh yeah, I’ll just put that straight into my talk. That’ll be fine. And of course it ends up being far too complicated, having far too much in it and so then you have the situation of a speaker pointing to a slide and saying, “Oh, don’t worry about that bit. That bit’s not relevant and actually all I want you to focus on is this”, pointing to a tiny little bit. And there’s no way that could be considered respectful to your audience. So important that you remake slides if you’re going to talk to them in your talk.

Michael (00:15:07)
Yeah, absolutely, absolutely. You know, and, and I think you made an excellent point there about sequentially presenting information as you’re talking about it. And there’s just something so powerful about getting that timing right. It makes a huge difference and you know, as well, you need to be beware of the TLA. What is the TLA? I hear you asking. And you’ve just proved my point, because it stands for the Three Letter Acronym and chances are if you’re using three letter acronyms in your, in your slide deck, people are not going to recognise it immediately.
And look, there’s a whole load of resources and we’ll link to a few in our show notes. You mentioned Canva, which is actually an Australian company. And recently the the two founders of Canvas topped the rich list of the richest millennials in Australia. They’ve got a combined wealth of 16.5 billion dollars, which is just an obscene amount of money. But it, you know, it kind of speaks to how popular as tools like Canva are all around the world.

Jen (00:16:19)
So I think one of the obvious things that we haven’t mentioned yet is just this whole idea of presentation skills. And of course, for a lot of us, when we think about giving a talk, that’s the first thing we think about. And hopefully we’ve got across that actually, there’s all sorts of other things to think about. First, your planning and your narrative and your audience and all those sort of things.
But I think presentation skills are super important because it doesn’t matter how good your content is and how beautiful your slides are. If you sound bored, there is no choice but for your audience to find you boring, and so that’s why it comes down to the way you present yourself.
And, and I think there’s sort of, there are misconceptions out there that the only people who are good public speakers are very energetic, very bubbly, very extroverted people, and I don’t think that’s true at all. Some of the very best talks that I’ve seen have been presented by quite softly spoken, more, you know, just a very different presentation style. So I really don’t think this comes down to being bubbly, but I think it comes down to genuinely conveying passion and that can be done in a very understated way. It doesn’t have to be hand waving, larger than life. But if it doesn’t come across in your voice, and by your words that you really care about this, then I think it’s really problematic.
And what that means is that I think it’s just so important that you’re not reciting something that you’ve memorised and that you’re not reading from notes, because the minute you write yourself a script, it starts as a written document, and we all know the way we write and the way we speak are very different. So if you’ve written yourself out a document, it’s probably got a whole lot of ‘therefores’ in it, and ‘howevers’, and ‘whilsts’ and all these things that we very rarely say when we’re speaking. The sentences will be long, it will be, it just won’t sound like you. And the problem with writing that script is that you’ve kind of convinced your brain, this is the best way to say it. So your job now is to, is to do whatever it takes to be able to replicate that word for word. And so you either end up reading or you end up memorising. And the minute you get nervous, you forget what you’ve memorised. The minute you read your notes, you lose any opportunity to be tuned into and connected to your audience. You have to make eye contact with your audience and we’ll talk in a minute about how to do that when you’re presenting online.
But if you’re not conveying to your audience with your voice and your, your body, and your words that you’re really, you’re here to connect with them, you see it as a privilege to share your work with them, you’re watching them. If it becomes clear from their faces that they’re not, they’re not understanding you, you’ll revisit it. And, and if you’re hiding behind notes or your mind is fully occupied with trying to recall something you’ve memorised, it just, it just doesn’t work.
So practicing is so important and ideally watch videos of yourself, watch videos of yourself to see what your voice looks like, to see if you smile, to see if you come across as enthusiastic. If you have any natural gestures that you want people to see, you know. Don’t be afraid of using gestures, using hands can be really effective.

Michael (00:19:23)
Yeah, absolutely. And it’s a great point you make about enthusiasm and passion. Because you’re right, it doesn’t take – every single sentence doesn’t need to be super enthusiastic. And actually, if you did that, it would probably be a bit confronting to the audience. I usually like to tell the students it’s about identifying the key bits of information, and emphasising just those parts of the talk. And perhaps doing that by modulating your voice, or even having a little bit of an extra pause at the end of a really impactful sentence, uhm, can work really well. You’ll notice Barack Obama does that really well where he’ll have a, a pause at the end of an impactful sentence. He likes a, quite a [lengthy] pause so you don’t have to do such a [lengthy] pause, just even half a second can work.
But you know, we’re in the online world now as well, so we’ve got a different medium that we’re communicating in. In the online world, in terms of body language, facial expressions and eye contact become a whole lot more important, and it’s really important to be looking directly down the barrel of the camera to do that, which is actually not really that intuitive because you tend to want to look at a person’s face on the screen, you know.
So if you’re presenting and you can see people on Zoom, for example, you’ll be, you probably want to be looking at their faces, but that’s not looking directly at them. In real life, it would be, but not online. You need to look directly down the barrel of the camera. You know, ensure you have good lighting. Don’t be too far away from your microphone. You might want to use headphones.
Think about your background as well, you know. You might want to have a strategically placed plant like I usually do for my teaching in the background. Usually looks nice, but just think about it, you know. It, it should kind of add to, or not detract from your talk anyway. And if possible, add to it.

Jen (00:21:26)
Absolutely, but I think we have to acknowledge it is really hard to present online, particularly if people don’t put their cameras on and you’re just presenting to a whole lot of black boxes. It can feel so hard because the amount of energy it takes to project your enthusiasm into a camera is, is great, I think. I think it takes a lot of energy to present well online and then often you just get very little back.
So for someone like me who does get energy from being in a room with people, I find giving talks in person very very energising, I love it. I find giving talks online completely exhausting because you’re just not getting anything back from your audience. So I, and I think it takes a certain level of trust sometimes in your, when you’re presenting face to face. You, you get a lot of affirmation and validation from the audience, ’cause people might smile or nod, you might get a little chuckle and you think, OK, I’m on the right track, my audience is with me.
Whereas delivering online you often get nothing and you just have to sort of trust yourself and plow on ahead and hope for the best, and just assume that people are with you. Because I mean, of course you can, you can use polling, you can ask for people to speak up or put things in the chat. There are certainly ways to invite interaction, but I do think it’s it’s much harder.
Most people, if you ask them what are they most concerned about when it comes to public speaking, they’ll say being nervous, I, I feel really nervous and I don’t like feeling nervous. And so I think one of the big things that we do with our students is talk a lot about the fact that nerves are very good, everybody gets nervous. There’s a great quote from Mark Twain. I love Mark Twain quotes, and he says there are two types of speakers, those who get nervous, and those who are liars. Which, it’s just, it’s just so true. But of course, being nervous is good because being nervous simply means that you care.
So if you’re giving a talk and you genuinely don’t feel nervous at all, I’d suggest that means that you really don’t care much about the outcome and in which case, is it really worth you giving this talk? So, I think acknowledging that nerves are good is excellent but, if your nerves are debilitating and you’re finding that they prevent you being able to think clearly and actually give a good talk. And we’ve said we don’t want you to have notes, we don’t want you to memorise. So that means you have to be able to think clearly enough that even though you’ve planned a talk very carefully, you know what you have time to say, you know what order you’re going to say it in, you have to be able to deliver your sentences off the cuff, you have to construct your sentences in real time. And so that means you can’t be too nervous. And I think the classic advice that people get when they’re nervous, which is just take a deep breath and try and calm down.
It turns out that that’s terrible advice because you know, all of our, all of the scientists among us know that that feeling of that really kind of heightened feeling of anxiety, feeling really hyped up. Maybe you’re a bit shaky, maybe you’ve got a rash on your cheeks or on your neck. That’s because you’ve got a whole lot of stress hormones in your system. And taking a deep breath isn’t going to suddenly make those stress hormones leave your bloodstream. So instead the research is pretty clear: the way to tackle nerves is to be aware of your self talk. And you have to embrace that feeling of anxiety that you have and turn your self talk from this being a negative thing into a positive thing.
So your, your self talk needs to go from. Oh, I’m terrified. I hate giving talks. This is the last thing I want to do. Why, why did I put myself in for this? Again, that has to turn into, I’m so excited. What an amazing opportunity to share my work with these people. I might be feeling a bit nervous, but that’s OK. Nerves are good. I’m really looking forward to this. And the more we convince ourselves that being nervous is OK and that we’re excited and we know we’ve practiced. We know that we’re going to take some pauses. We’re going to smile. We’re going to remind ourselves that really, what’s the worst that could happen here? There’s going to be no innocent person going to jail. No one going to die while we’re conducting surgery. Of course it can be absolutely humiliating and awful to give a bad talk, but there are probably worse things in the world that could happen, at least that’s what I always tell myself.

Michael (00:25:32)
Yeah, absolutely, I think that’s really helpful advice about reframing your nervousness as enthusiasm and excitement. Uhm, you know and there’s, I was actually listening to a really interesting podcast that doesn’t relate to talking about science, but they were actually talking about the, the brain and they were talking about the fear response.
And apparently there’s quite a lot of research on lateral eye movements. So looking left to right, that it can suppress the amygdala, which is the part of the brain where the fear response comes from. And it’s, it’s got enough evidence behind it that they actually use this as a, as a treatment for PTSD. So they’ll get the person to recall the events, but they’ll get them to look left to right lateral eye movements, and it’s supposed to suppress the fear response, but let them, you know, talk about the event. I haven’t tried it for a talk yet because I’ve only just found out about this, but you know, maybe it’s something worth looking into.

Jen (00:26:36)
Fascinating, absolutely fascinating.
Maybe there’s a whole new approach to pre-talk nerves here.

Michael (00:26:48)
Yeah, exactly, exactly. And then look, I think you need to prepare for questions and it comes back to the point we made about leaving enough time for questions. But also in your preparation for the, for the talk, try and anticipate what questions might be asked.
And I’m sure you’ve been to a talk before where someone asks, asks a question and the presenter goes, “Oh, I’m glad you asked me that. I actually have the perfect slide which answers your question” and it looks very impressive.
So if you, I mean if you can anticipate, and if you’ve given enough talks, you know what the questions are going to be generally. Uhm, or you’ll be able to at least predict one question. And if you, if you get a question that throws you off, you haven’t predicted it and you know, don’t worry about it. It’s completely fine to be honest and say, “Look, I actually don’t know the answer to that, but I can get back to you.” And in fact, it’s much better to do that than to attempt to answer a question that you don’t really know the answer to.

Jen (00:27:45)
Yeah, we’ve all seen someone plow into giving a response to a question, then halfway through they realise that they actually have no idea what the question was and they’re just digging themselves a hole. So much better just to either clarify the question or say, “What a fabulous question! I’ve never thought about it, let’s have a chat afterwards.”

Michael (00:28:01)
Yeah, although I remember, I remember doing questions at the end of the talk before and I got into the habit of saying ‘that’s a fabulous question’ at the start of every answer.
And then I, I really, I didn’t realise. But then after about you know, five or six answers, the audience started laughing because I had said the same thing ‘that’s a fabulous question’. I think someone made a comment being like, “oh, there’s really good questions”.

Jen (00:28:31)
And I, I totally agree. And I think a lot of people, when you’re not very experienced at giving talks yet, question time feels really scary because you feel like it’s the one part of the talk that you can’t prepare for. But in fact, I think it’s the best part of the talk, because it’s where you get to find out what people think and where you get to hear new ideas and where people get to give you feedback.
And if we’re thinking specifically about conference talks here, the whole reason to go a conference is to get feedback from people other than your immediate collaborators and supervisors. And so, the whole idea of talking so long that you run out of time for questions is just crazy. If anything, talk for less time, leave yourself more time for questions, and then you get far more benefit out of it. Question time is essentially free advice, and I’m always up for free advice.

Michael (00:29:15)
Yeah, absolutely. And I think everyone in the audience will you know, be, have been in your position where you know, they’ve had to answer questions before and maybe it’s your first time answering questions and everyone in the audience has been there as well. So you know, it’s not there, the audience isn’t out to, to get you, they’re, they’re, you know, conspiring in favor of you and they want to have you know, positive discussions around your research.
Sure, there’s always going to be that one scientist who might want to ask a prickly question. And if you, you know, if you don’t know anyone who is like that, because I’m sure you do. If you don’t know anyone that’s like that, it could be you, that’s that scientist asking the prickly questions. And they’re doing it for other reasons, you know. They want to demonstrate that they’re very smart. You know, maybe they like putting you under pressure. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with healthy constructive criticism, and perhaps we might have to have a whole podcast on, you know, how to give and receive feedback. But yeah it’s uhm, generally the audience is there in support of you and they’re, you know, very understanding.
It’s all well and good talking about all these points, but really the, the preparing for the talk and that’s where you really craft a brilliant talk and making sure you set aside enough time to prepare and practice.

Jen (00:30:37)
You just have to put in, put in the time to build up the confidence and it, it to, to finish off, just to reiterate this point, it’s really worth doing. If public speaking is something that you have quite a lot of fear about, and you’ve really tried to avoid doing it as much as possible, just remember you’re missing out on a lot of opportunities.
So take the bull by the horns, accept that it is a hard thing to do. But with practice you can get much, much better and think about the opportunities you’ll miss if you don’t say ‘yes’ next time someone invites you to give a talk.

Michael (00:31:05)
Absolutely, absolutely. But I think we’re running out of time, Jen.
We’re going to have to move on to the next part of the podcast, which is the student tips.

Stephanie (00:31:22)
Hi guys, I’m Stephanie. I’m an aspiring environmental scientist and a graduate student studying science communication.
Speaking about science can be scary. Like some listeners out there, I used to dread public speaking. I was always nervous to talk in front of a large crowd and being under the spotlight. It showed in my body language as I tended towards a hunched posture. But with practice, I learned that good body language is such an underrated aspect of being a better speaker. It influences how we feel and how our audience perceives us. When we stand up straight with open posture and use our hands to communicate instead of having them crossed in front of us, we exude more confidence.
But this can be difficult to remember when in the midst of giving a science talk. So my top tip for making sure your posture is open and engaging when talking about science is to simply shift your weight towards the balls of your feet. As you lean slightly forward, gravity does its work, your posture naturally opens up and straightens. It also helps us to resist rocking on the spot or putting more weight on one foot than the other. Of course, don’t lean too far forward, we don’t want to face plant.
I’m Stephanie, that’s my top tip, thanks for listening.

Randy (00:32:50)
Hello everyone, I’m Randy Mann. Giving a talk about science can be challenging but engaging your audience with storytelling might be an avenue worth considering. Instead of presenting a bunch of facts and figures about a particular science topic, take your audience on the journey with you.
Storytelling is not a process or technique, but rather a skill that can be mastered over time. Within the last several years, storytelling has become more essential in business models, marketing campaigns and other forms of communication. So if it’s possible, communicate your science with the story, engage your audience by helping them to become more involved with your passion.
Stories bring people together, creates a sense of community, and helps them to better connect with your presentation. There are many websites that provide good insights for the art of storytelling. Elon Musk and Tesla have communicated their company through storytelling and I think we all know how that turned out.
And that’s my tip, thanks for listening.

Michael (00:34:12)
Thanks for listening. You can reach out to us on Insta and Twitter @LetsTalkSciComm and Let’s Talk SciComm podcast on Facebook and we would love to hear from you.