According to Brian Malow, the best way to communicate your scientific results is to tell a joke. And if your joke fails, you can always say, “that joke was endothermic – it required some input from you to make it work!
Brian Malow is the (self-proclaimed) Earth’s premier science comedian. I recently had the opportunity to hear him speak at the AAAS 2011 Annual Meeting. In addition to feeling like I was in a comedy club in the middle of the day, I got to hear several great pearls of wisdom from Brian. Some of his suggestions were about being funny, but really most of his suggestions are just about improving your communication skills in general. Here’s a list of some of his suggestions:
• Being animated and varying the sound of your voice and using hand gestures helps keep the audience interested in you for a longer period of time (you can also try smiling and looking like you are always about to say something funny)
• Share why you care
• Know why others care and how you can connect to them
• Don’t use jargon, you need to connect to the audience
• If you are going to use an example for illustration, make it concrete and not abstract
Here are some tips on using PowerPoint slides and multimedia that I think almost every scientist fails:
• Don’t rely on your slides; be prepared to do the presentation without slides in case technology fails
• The slides should be a side note and not the main attraction so that you can maintain eye contact and engagement with the audience
• Slides should be mostly visual and have a maximum of a few words each
And here are some of his suggestions specific to humor:
• Don’t make jokes about subjects such as sex, sexism, race, or religion
• A collection of quotes or jokes are not as funny as a story or a theme that people can connect to
• It is ok to exaggerate to make a point
If you are a member of AAAS, you can login and view the whole video online.