Science communication is all about making science more accessible to the population. But what if you consider yourself an introvert? Or maybe public speaking is not your thing? Here are some tips and tricks from one fellow introvert to another.
I recently discovered the science communication community on instagram. I love the common goal of getting the public, especially young adults, excited about science as well as keeping the public informed about new emerging studies. I consider myself an introvert. Even after all the presentations and speeches and poster sessions I have made for my university courses, I still get nervous. So if you want to spread some science love but you are an introvert or just a little shy, I came up with some ideas to help you communicate confidently.
If public speaking isn’t your thing, start with a blog or social media page. They allow you to gather your thoughts over a period of time without worrying about a physical group of people. You can re-write as much as you want before publishing. Pick either a blog or social media page to start. Over time, you can launch on multiple platforms. There are also so many examples of blogs and pages out there to draw inspiration from and develop your style. In the age of the internet, social media and blogs allow you to interact with your audience without worrying about face to face interaction. After practicing with blogs or social media, you can move on to podcasts and videos. Having a mixture of platforms allows you to reach a wide variety of people, including those who have visual or auditory impairments. If you are nervous to go out on a limb by yourself, tag team. Find someone who compliments your field and have a guest on your blog or your podcast. It takes some of the pressure off of you and allows you to showcase other aspects of science, including a field you might not know a lot about.
Application is Everything
My podcast started out as a class final project and has grown since then. I took the feedback from my professor and applied it to my future episodes. I make sure to pay attention to the content my audience enjoys as well as the episodes that are not as good. Taking classes is another way to practice. Some universities have science communication classes, but if your university doesn’t, communication or public speaking classes will give you the tools to engage with your audience. Theatre classes will also be useful in helping you get comfortable with yourself in front of a crowd. And they are typically more fun than your average communication class. If you find yourself no longer in university, TEDTalks are a great tool. TEDTalks are designed to engage a diverse audience in a short time frame. I use what I learn from classes or watching other science communicators and try out new techniques to see if my audience likes them. It gives me an opportunity to apply what I learn and improve my content.
Practice Makes Perfect
Another way I help make myself more comfortable is practicing what I am going to say. I record myself and listen to it back if I am going to be presenting via voice over or video. It lets me see how fast I am speaking, where I need to enunciate more, what parts are unclear, etc. If I am going to be talking with people face to face, I make sure I practice in front of the mirror. I learned this from my American Sign Language class. It allows you to see your facial expressions and body language while you are speaking. Also, if you have roommates, practice in front of them. They can give you actual audience reactions and ask questions. Which leads me to my next tip, make sure you know your content inside and out, so you can feel comfortable answering questions. Either write out what you are going to say or have an outline of some sort to guide your “rehearsal”.
Push yourself to go outside your comfort zone. I was very nervous to take the leap into the science communication pond because I had not taken a class and I hadn’t finished my undergrad. But I really wanted to share what I was learning in my classes with someone other than my roommates. I challenged myself to engage with other communicators, especially women who were as excited about science as I was. It took a lot of planning and learning as I went. And it will continue to take more hard work and patience. But I am confident these experiences I had can help you guys out there who are introverted like I am.
Written by Emma Ives @chillpill_withemmaives on Instagram
Emma Ives is a biology undergrad at The Ohio State University. She hopes to graduate and attend pharmacy school. Her passions include discovering new fields of pharmacy and discussing science with others. Outside of school, she hosts the podcast Chill Pill with Emma Ives and spends her free time reading the newest fantasy novel. Or re-reading The Lord of the Rings.