Communicating Science

I spent last week in Ireland. The main purpose of my visit was to attend the annual conference of the Occupational Hygiene Society of Ireland in Portlaoise.  (If you don’t know what occupational hygiene is see here). The theme of the Conference was “How well do we communicate” and one of the highlights was the talk by Fergus McAuliffe, an Environmental Scientist from University College Cork.  Fergus won the International  “Fame Lab” competition last year and was a speaker at the TEDX Ireland conference in Dublin.

His talk was about communicating science, with particular reference to presentations. The key points were :

  • Don’t try to cover too much
  • Use appropriate language for the target audience – “word down” (i.e. use simple language)
  • Use a logical structure
  • Use Powerpoint wisely – concentrate on good quality visuals
  • Deliver with passion – people remember what they feel

Although his talk was aimed at “scientists” his advice could equally apply to other contexts – including art. I’ve seen quite a few “artists statements” and descriptions or critiques of works of art where I can’t understand what the speaker or author is going on about!

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2 thoughts on “Communicating Science

  1. I work in the field of health and safety and spend most of my time trying to convince people that if you have an important message to convey, you should keep it simple. I find that people often mistake simple for simplistic, and these are not the same thing at all. Keeping information simple is a matter of being absolutely clear in your own mind before you attempt to explain the concept to someone else.

  2. I agree with you completely Margaret. I don’t think we can stress too much the need to think about the audience when preparing and delivering a presentation. And I agree – keep it simple – i.e. don’t overcomplicate and use over complex terminology – is key

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