Science Slams can be an effective outreach tool and can also help you improve your science communication skills.
To all scientists out there: what made you curious about the world around you? Was it that well written textbook in biology or was it that enthusiastic teacher? Maybe it started even earlier, with the “science for kids” books that your parents read to you. Or maybe it was that super interesting and funny talk you happened to come across on YouTube?
Whichever the channel that triggered your curiosity, it relied on a scientist’s willingness to reach out, inform and engage. The importance of science outreach cannot be overemphasized. What good would science do if it stayed within the university walls rather than informing the public about things that eventually matter to them and have a bearing on their lives? So reach out and make an impact!
Improving communication skills through Science Slams
But how? A perfect opportunity is to participate in a Science Slam. In fact, one such event coming up very soon is the Researchers’ Grand Prix, Sweden’s biggest science slam competition. Here, researchers are challenged to present their science in a way that is as educational, engaging and entertaining as possible – in just four minutes! This event is organized as part of the European Researchers’ Night, Europe’s largest science festival that is celebrated in 250 cities across the continent. Check out their website to find events close to you!
I have myself participated in many science slams and I find it really rewarding from both the personal and professional points of view.1 Personally, I like being on stage, interacting with people and awakening their curiosity and interest. Professionally, my frequent attendance at various outreach events has enabled me to disseminate my work more widely and gain more traction for my scientific findings, and it has opened up new career opportunities. I learned to condense my content and adapt it to the target audience: thanks to these skills my conference talks also improved, and I became successful in both arenas.
"I have been to presentation workshops before, but this was the best! I feel super motivated to sign up for a science slam competition!”
Science slamming in Copenhagen
These days, I am fortunate to be able to convey my passion for presenting to other researchers. Just last week I delivered a 3-hour-long workshop at the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Protein Research, based at the University of Copenhagen. In this workshop, we first discussed how to select and organize information and adapt it to the target audience, using the framing and story techniques developed by Elevate. Through a mix of theory, discussions and exercises, the participants could construct a compelling narrative that met the tight time constraints of a science slam.
The planning of the content is indeed vital, but a confident delivery is equally important for connecting with the audience and getting their full attention. I thus guided the participants through essential verbal and non-verbal delivery techniques and exercises, and I advised them on ways of overcoming public speaking anxiety. At the end of the workshop, each participant had the possibility to practice giving his or her science slam. It was amazing to see the progress made by the participants in a short period of time. I really enjoyed delivering this workshop; thank you to all participants for contributing and providing such positive feedback, which is of course very motivating going ahead!
“The workshop is great for scientists who want to present their work to non-scientists and have difficulties with this transition.”
Are you interested in becoming a science slammer yourself? I would be delighted to help out! Get in touch, be it for a similar half-day workshop that focuses on speed presentations or our full presentation techniques workshop, in which we discuss how to create narratives and design and deliver impactful presentations to a wide range of audiences.
- I have longstanding experience in science outreach and have won accolades for my performance in many science slams. For example, I won the national 3MT (3 minute thesis) competition and was highly commended by the judges in the international final. I won again in Almedalen (an annual, week-long political jamboree in Sweden). I also won the regional Forskar Grand Prix in 2016 and finished in third place at the national finals.