About Me

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I'm an assistant professor of neuroscience at Washington State University in Vancouver, where I use tiny zebrafish (the size of an eyelash!) as a model system to study human hearing loss and how we can prevent it. I'm also a long-time Toastmaster and I teach communication workshops. This blog represents the merging of my two passions - science and communication, which has really become one central passion - the science of communication. There's a revolution in science right now...the idea that we scientists should sometimes leave the lab and talk about what we do, and why we do it, to real people. This blog looks at why we should do this, and how to actually talk about science with non-scientists (and with each other!). Portions of this blog are also featured on Qualia, the AAAS MemberCenter blog site.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Preparing for an upcoming talk: what do I need to know?

On April 7th I’m giving a public talk before a performance of the San Diego Symphony featuring solo percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie (feel free to stop by if you’re in the area!).  This gives me a good opportunity to discuss some of the things I try to plan in advance of a talk, particularly one in a new venue where I have limited information prior to the event.

I focus on three areas: the audience, the person or organization that invited me, and logistical details.  I want to know who the intended audience will be-their age, background, and interests.  I also want to know why they are attending the talk.  For more on this topic see my previous post on audience analysis.

Next, who extended the invitation, and what is their motivation? Are their specific topics this person or organization wants me to discuss? For my upcoming San Diego talk I’ve run a short talk synopsis past both the Capita Foundation, who invited me, and the featured performer.  This way there are hopefully no surprises and we are all happy with the finished product.

Finally, let’s look at logistics.  Where will the talk be held-a lecture hall, library, bar? (yes, many public science outreach series happen in bars!)  What technical support is available?  At a minimum I want a projector with a screen appropriate for the space, a wireless lapel microphone, good quality audio speakers, and someone to help with the technology so I can focus on the talk.  I bring my own laptop and presentation remote.

For your next talk, consider the issues of audience, invitation, and logistics.  Planning well in advance will help your talk run more smoothly, and reduce last-minute details so you can focus on connecting with your audience.  Did all of this advanced planning pay off for me?  Stay tuned for post-talk analysis…

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