Communicating outside the box (and outside my comfort zone!!)

Ok so how many of you out there – students, educators, & professionals alike – have a fear of public speaking? Because I am most definitely on that band wagon!!!

Today’s session in our Communicating Science topic was probably one of the scariest days at Uni for me and according to the circle of comfort, learning and panic zones that Heather Bray presented us with today, I was most definitely on the outer edges of my panic zone today!

The first step: ‘talk about yourself for 2 minutes’. Most people could do that fairly easily. But that was where the easy and comfortable ended and the learning and panic began.

The second task: pick a word out of the hat and talk about the object for 2 minutes. Now first let me say that keeping time while you are thinking on the spot and speaking aloud to a bunch of people is not an easy thing to do. Then let’s add in words like ‘chair’, ‘banana’ and ‘pencil’ and you’re just making things more difficult than they need to be. I must however congratulate Jo’s rendition of the ‘pencil’ because by the end of her 2 minutes I really did like pencils (haha)!

Ok now for the PANIC zone – and I don’t think I was the only person in the room who was starting to feel this way. So imagine this… you are given an object, a random object with no specific meaning, and told:

‘use the object as a prop to describe either something scientific or some other interesting fact or process’.

Ahhh, ok, so total mental blank and panic sets in as fast as I can say rubik cube (yes I was given a rubix cube and no my task was not to solve the cube in 2 minutes). So not only did I have to think on my feet, but I have to use a totally random object to do it. Wow!

And where does my fear of public speaking lead me? Well, not only are we scientists keeping to ourselves and appearing disconnected and aloof to our fellow companions, but we don’t seem to be very good at communicating to those who are not science-orientated. As my good friend iwillcommunicatescience has demonstrated, ‘it is imperative that science is understood an encouraged… and quickly’. Simple and effective communication of the sciences is so very important in today’s society and yet we have so many problems with presenting our findings to our colleagues let alone the general populace. We need to develop these skills and concentrate on defining them, and for me, this includes controlling my nerves and showing a level of confidence that will convince anyone listening that what I am presenting may not necessarily be the best and most important piece of information out there, but it does at least warrant some sort of consideration.

So I put it to you… how many of you have issues with public speaking, and how far are you willing to step out of your comfort zone to overcome this?


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