Wednesday, June 1, 2011

My Little Pony & Effective Communication

Finally! I get to write about ponies. At work! No kidding folks, anyone in my family would tell you I was an avid fan of My Little Pony through about age 10, and so I'm thrilled to show you this student presentation examining the physics of My Little Pony.

I just want to clarify that
My Little Pony used to
look like this.
Of course, grown-up Heather is more impressed with the physics than the new adventures of my favorite ponies. Beatledude64 took creativity to a new level and approached his homework assignment with humor and finesse; exactly the sort of thing to celebrate, since June is Effective Communications Month.

Here at New Voices, we are huge fans of science communication and the sub-type of communication known as advocacy, so throughout the month we'll be sharing examples of great science communication to help all of us on our journey to become more effective communicators and advocates for research.

What makes this a great jumping off point? Most of us got our first experiences speaking in front of groups in classrooms, and regardless of where we're speaking now, the same general rules apply:
  1. Speak to your audience. Know who you're talking to, and find something that will be interesting to your target demographic; whether that's sports, a movie, a TV show, or a local legend. Be sure to take the time to mention the pertinent details (ex.: "ponies fall a lot") that way anyone who isn't as intimately familiar with the example can follow along, too.
  2. Talk about what you know. If you choose to make an analogy to driving a motorcycle, and you've never actually ridden one, you're not doing your presentation justice.You will be the best at talking (and responding to questions!) about the things you're most familiar with.
  3. Make it a dialogue. If you get a question or comment mid-presentation, respond. Ignoring it doesn't make it go away. Laughter and heckling only gets bad when you don't take it in stride.
  4. Work through any trouble spots. Your technology might not work. It may not even be plugged in. But if you don't make a big deal out of it, chances are, no one else will either. Not wasting time repeatedly apologizing for video delays or technological hiccups will keep you on your presentation rhythm and your audience engaged.
  5. Be confident. You know more about your topic than probably anyone else in the room. If that wasn't the case, you probably wouldn't be the person  everyone came to hear in the first place.
Fear not, super presenter, you can do this. It takes practice. Lots of practice, usually out loud, and preferably in front of a mirror or friendly audience.

We may not be magic ponies, but your New Voices compatriots are here to support you in your endeavors, too. Drop us a line in the comments or by email if you have questions about effective communication.

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  1. Great advice, Heather! I also recommend rehearsing-in the mirror, to the cat (or the pony), your family, or best of all, in front of your video camera. This can be painful, but it pays off to learn in private before performing when it counts.

  2. Physics is now 20% cooler.!!