I recently attended a communication workshop to learn how to more effectively explain what I do. I went with relatively low expectations, but it turned out to be incredibly useful. I learned about some exciting new venues for science news and information, and got to practice distilling my research into easy-to-understand pieces.
Before the workshop I had an unanticipated lesson in communication at BNHM. I was there for another one of those donor-schmoozing events. They always include a presentation of some sort, but this one also had a behind-the-scenes tour for the donors/guests. I got to watch several museum scientists, including Leo, talk about their research in a whole new way. Instead of hearing them talk about their research for other scientists, they were talking to intelligent adults who were interested in science and research, but didn't necessarily know anything about their field or what they actually do as scientists. They noticeably changed their language, eliminated jargon, and spoke concisely. Leo and another scientist were particularly good at it, and you could tell. The other scientist also happened to be a great story teller, and people were riveted to him. He's an excellent example of an effective science communicator. He made it exciting and easy to understand. I explained my research too, but I could tell immediately one-on-one when I lost them somewhere.
[At the end of the event Leo said to me, "I'm so glad you came over for this event. It's good to attend these things, especially since you're interested in education and outreach." I was thinking, Oh good! He doesn't notice I'm here for the free food and alcohol! Well, that's not the only reason I go (I do like trying to explain to people what I do), but I'm self-conscious of the fact that I'm almost only at the museum when they're giving me free food or I'm taking some friend or family member behind the scenes.]
But really, I love talking about science. I love trying to explain what I do in a way that makes it real to people. Podcasts, blogs, and well-planned in-person presentations are some fantastic ways to communicate science. I can't wait to actually collect some data so I can talk about it! The next challenge I've got to tackle, though, is communicating my research to people in Ukenzagapia.