1. It's all about the preparation
The evening itself was fun but the process of planning and deciding which part of our work to present to the audience was the most valuable part.
I had to step further back from my research than I often do to find a key concept and suitable examples to make it approachable and interesting. There was a lot of trial and error involved, but it all worked out well on the night for me and my colleagues.
2. All science can be shared with non-specialists
Some scientists can be put off from taking part in public events because they assume that a general audience wouldn’t actually be interested in their research. I work on infectious diseases so it’s relatively easy to persuade people that my research affects their lives. But in reality, the people who attend are generally interested in science and with the right examples, anything can be made accessible.
For example, we had a great talk about how a flow cytometry sorter works in our session (from the Crick’s Hefin Rhys), which you might not immediately think of as an easy sell.
3. Formal public speaking training is useful
Even if you’ve already done some kind of training, it can’t hurt to take as much advice as possible. I took part in the Crick’s science communication training and worked with the public engagement team and the other presenters on my talk. It was all very helpful. Even if you’ve done similar things before, I always pick up something new that’s useful.
4. There are always different ways to talk about your research
Now that I’ve done the first one, I could do many more Pint of Science events. Once you start looking at your research from the point of view of someone who’s not familiar with it, you keep finding new angles and new aspects to highlight.
5. Remember that the audience have already chosen to be there
I took part in a Pint of Science event on London’s first sunny evening of the year. Something clicked when I realised that the audience had actually chosen to be inside rather than having a beer outside. I knew that they were interested and that they wanted to spend their free time listening to someone talk about science.
6. Humour can’t hurt
A bit of humour can’t hurt in most presentations. But when you are doing public engagement, and especially an evening event like Pint of Science, humour can help concepts stick in people’s minds. And it makes it more enjoyable for the audience and yourself.
7. Do it!
Forcing myself to take a very big step back and look at our research from a distance meant that I thought a lot about basic concepts of our current work. I found this really refreshing and it’s already shaped the way I present our work to scientists.