Back in the dark ages, when I was in graduate school, compelling science communication meant traveling to a conference to give a presentation from 35mm slides. We always made sure that our slide carousels were in our carry-on baggage. That carousel was more important than our underwear or our toothbrush, no trusting it to baggage claim.
Things have improved markedly, I’m happy to say. Now everything has to go in the carry-on baggage, because most PIs don’t have the financial room in their grants to pay for checked bag fees. Fortunately, we can store copies of our presentations on several different clouds and bring a thumb drive or two on board the plane, tucked safely away in the underwear in the duffle bag that doesn’t quite fit in the overhead compartment. No need to choose between unwieldy slide carousels and clothes.
But are PowerPoint® and Prezi® presentations the best way to communicate your science? When you hit your audience with slide after slide of bullets are you killing their interest? When you show that slide of three years worth of work and say “Don’t worry about trying to read this…” are you killing your presentation?
Is there a better more compelling way to communicate science? Accurately. So that people care. So that people understand.
FameLab International certainly thinks so. Begun in 2005 by the Cheltenham Science Festival in the UK, FameLab seeks to promote better science communication through sponsorship of a competition in which scientists and engineers have three short minutes to communicate their science with enthusiasm and accuracy–armed “with only their wits and a few props that they can carry on stage.” The competition will have run its course in 2021, but viewing the videos is a great way to learn how to give great presentaiton.
It is truly a global competition with over 5,000 young scientists and engineers from 25 countries around the world competing for the grand prize each year. The Grand Final Competition is held in June each year, but you can take a sneak peak at some of the entrants on the FameLab Facebook page now.
Here’s a winning taste from the 2014 competition. There is more on the FameLab YouTube channel.