5 ways to come up with an idea for your Talking Points

With the deadline for talking points coming up, we’ve been hearing a few people have been struggling to come up with topic ideas. So, we’ve put together five ways to find something to talk about!

1.      Something from a lecture
Has your lecturer been talking about some super cool research or science that you could talk about? Maybe this is a chance to look into it a little further?

2.      News sites
Websites like Cosmos or The Conversation have loads of interesting articles that could spark a speech topic. Try searching by your STEM field to see what you find!

3.      Things that you care about
Do you love the environment? Maybe there’s an amazing new piece of technology that extracts pollution from the atmosphere. Or is public health a passion? What about an exciting new, low-cost medical treatment to improve the lives of many?

4.      Research to address an issue in your area
Think of an issue affecting your area. Is traffic out of control? Water pollution reaching an all-time high? Mental health issues becoming a bigger problem? Look online for research trying to address this issue, who knows what exciting solutions you might find!

5.      Topic of a university project
Have you spent the last 12 weeks focused on one nitty gritty topic? Well you’ve already got half the content sorted – talking points will be easy! You’ll also nail any questions.

Remember, your talking points don’t need to be about something you’ve come up with on your own. All you have to do is find some exciting STEM research, and communicate it!

The Art of Presentations

Imagine the photos that adorn the various surfaces of your home; those photos are probably displayed within frames of different shapes, sizes and materials. Now, have you ever considered how your choice of frame can change mood and message conveyed with your photo? Exhibits displayed below.

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One frame exudes a feeling of modern moodiness and mystery; the other frame manifests a vintage vibe. In the same way a frame can influence how a photo is perceived, so too can our mannerisms influence how our presentation is perceived by others. Undoubtedly, we have all met passionate people who have sent us to sleep when talking about their passions. Not necessarily because the content was sleep-inducing , but because the way those people spoke didn't do their topic justice.

We may be passionate and have the best ideas or information in the world, but if we can’t present it in a succinct, relatable, engaging manner, then our audience misses out. If that's the case, what can we do to put ourselves in the best position? As you craft a presentation, or even communicate in the everyday, consider the following:

  • TEMPO - the speed at which you speak

  • BEATS - the change in volume and speed. Imagine a drum - it can heavily influence the mood that music exudes simply by changing the rate and depth of percussion

  • ENUNCIATION - the oft-underrecognised reason why people struggle to convey ideas. Avoid being a mumbler.

  • MOVEMENT - use the "stage" to your advantage. Occasional movement to and fro will help your presentation become more dynamic and engaging. Similarly, an appropriate amount of hand gestures can help you emphasise your points and provide a physical frame for your words

  • EYE CONTACT - the first thing people think of when they want to make a good presentation. Remember that eye contact should be made to EVERYONE. Do slow scans of the room to ensure you are providing equal amounts of direct speaking time to different parts of the room

A great example of the above can be seen here in Simon Sinek's presentation on "Why good leaders make you feel safe".

Next time you do any form of speaking, remember that your frame is just as important as your picture.

Audilia Sujana

Head and Heart

Have you ever wondered what persuaded you to buy a particular product? Maybe it was those new pair of earphones you bought last week even though you have various pairs lying around your home. Did you buy it because the sales assistant was cute? Probably not. Chances are, they presented an excellent sales pitch to you. Perhaps, they even made an appeal to your head and heart. But what exactly do we mean by "your head and heart"?

An appeal to the head is done through the presentation of knowledge and logic. This may come in the form of facts, statistics and graphs. On the other hand, an appeal to the heart made through an emotional connection. Storytelling and a call to action are often used.

Now, going back to our cute sales assistant. Maybe they started off by informing you of the features and benefits of these earphones. Portable, noise-cancelling, stylish. Yet that was insufficient in convincing you to make the purchase. Thus, they moved on to sharing why you personally needed the product. These earphones would revolutionise your life and provide you with the perfect auditory experience. Whether it be during study, travel or workouts, these portable gadgets would provide amazing sound clarity and were ergonomically perfect. Bam, you were hooked.

In the same way, we should always consider how we can appeal to the heads and hearts of individuals. Why should people believe you and why should they care? If we can answer these two questions for anyone (whether it be in a presentation or day-to-day conversation), then we’ve paved the way for them to come on board with us and take up our point of contention or call to action.

Some excellent strategies to be used are:

HEAD

  • Use statistics, graphs, figures

  • Structure your presentation in an ordered manner e.g. Cause-Effect-Solution

  • Features and benefits

HEART 

  • Use personal, individualistic stories

  • Mention people and show faces - humanise the issue

  • Utilise emotive language

  • Explain the consequences of not agreeing with what you have to say

Remember, the aforementioned tips are only a starting point. You are the creator of your own presentation. How will you appeal to your diverse audience?

Audilia Sujana

Why does science communication matter?

Talking – a mastery of humanity. Communication, however, is an art, one that must be tailored to engage the audience. The words themselves need to be understood, and not only by colleagues but by outsiders and the general public.

Communication is an essential part of everyday life as a scientist. They must connect with a variety of audiences, by writing papers and proposals, presenting talks, and educating others both within and outside of the science community. Science has been around for thousands of years, and one would have thought that with such experience in communication, scientists would have the art down pat. No such luck. Whilst there has been an improvement in the past decades, a gap remains between the science community and the general public.

Science is exciting and thrilling, providing the opportunity to experiment and research. We are seeing ever more ambitious and pioneering studies being conducted globally, and into space. However, this rapid growth has led to increasing outflow of information and a change in the way scientific information is valued.  The media frequently controls this, giving priority to the speed of information dissemination to the public, rather than focusing on the reliability and quality of the source. “Frightful risk” and “new miracle cure” have become common headlines in our local and national papers despite the uncertain reliability of information sourced from a single study.

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Uncertainty is inevitable in science, and scientists understand that their research often provides a mere snapshot of reality, and that cognitive bias may play a role in their interpretation of results. However, those who are uninformed about the uncertain nature of science may react to findings with unwarranted alarm or misguided hope. Others see findings and dismiss them, no longer trusting a scientific community which seems to regularly publish unhelpful and conflicting claims. The media regularly inflates these issues.

Effective science communication can remedy this problem by providing stronger evidence for claims and a link to the relevance of the research within society. Effective communication focuses on conveying a message clearly, simply and succinctly. The audience relies on engagement by the writer or presenter, prompting them to question the relevance of the information being offered.

Outstanding communication can capture the mind and imagination. It stimulates meaningful conversation and debate, granting science greater importance within society. Science festivals and television shows have already allowed this to occur, bringing popular science and research into the public domain. The uncomfortable awareness that I cannot set foot in the wild without David Attenborough’s soothing voice playing in my ear convinces me of this!

Scientists have a deep understanding of certain subjects. They are experts, but in order to communicate effectively they must be driven by the words of Albert Einstein:

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough.”

Scientists must know their audience and adapt their words accordingly to present the essential messages – why does it matter? Why is this research important?

Science must be made accessible to the public. In turn this will create a stronger union between scientific and public values. Effective communication has the potential to escalate the impact of science in multiple spheres.

Amelia Pearson - Let's Torque Content Manager