This week I had the pleasure of attending an excellent science outreach event at one of the pubs local to the reseach institute where I work. The Café Scientifique format is one with which I’m sure many of you will be familiar but for those of you don’t have a clue what I’m talking about; it’s essentially a platform for scientists and others to communicate science to the general public in a relaxed and informal setting.
I was treated to four 5-minute talks by some of my fellow PhD students (for one excellent example click here, and subscribe while you’re there 😉 ). I found the experience extremely refreshing, to hear talks that are pitched for a general audience is somewhat unusual and definitely allowed me to see this work in a different light. As scientists I think it’s quite easy for us to slip into a somewhat myopic mindset, without always stopping to think about the wider impacts of our work. This was particularly highlighted by the nature of the questions from the audience members. One question which was directed at all the speakers was trying to get down to the personal motivation fo each of the students for carrying out their research. This sort of question is rarely asked in a scientific setting but it was none the less an interesting and valid question.
I was impressed by the speakers’ ability to concisely convey the complexity of their research in an easily digestible form without making me feel like I was being spoken down to or patronised. I’m hopeful that I may be able to incorporate some of their techniques into my talks in the future, and I hope to be involved in one of the future Café Scientifique events. Although it can sometimes be daunting, I think that giving a talk without slides and only a very few visual aids can really boost public speaking skills. So congratulations to all the speakers on a job well done.
Until next time, C.