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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.

Monday, October 7, 2013

She did what??

From http://planninga-from-nanninga.blogspot.com
Grab your audience’s attention with an unexpected twist!  I recently attended a workshop on writing successful grant proposals (highly recommended!), and the presenter, Dr.Peg AtKisson, used a clever trick to get us all in our seats after the lunch break. Peg, a rock-music vocalist, briskly launched into a musical story about cats parachuting into Borneo.  We were captivated…and quiet!

Maybe you can’t sing – there are plenty of other ways to capture their attention!  Try popping a balloon (as one colleague did in a talk on hearing), or start your presentation from the back of the room.  Get a co-conspirator to call your cell phone during your talk, then answer it to deliberately make a point (perhaps about new technology, or about the distractions of cell phones). There are thousands of ways to liven any presentation with a brief and unexpected turn of events. What have you tried or seen?  Please comment on your favorite.

Oh, and the cat song?  It’s based on the spraying of DDT in Borneo back in the 1950s…here’s one take on the full story.

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