At SFN 2017, I led the Professional Development Workshop “A Practical Guide to Science Communication.”
Professional Development Workshops are a great way to get some highly visible leadership experience at the conference and make connections with people with similar interests. As a graduate student, I did not initially think I would be qualified to run a workshop, but I said to myself,
“the answer is definitely no if you do not ask.”
Therefore, I put in a proposal for a professional development workshop in early 2017. Here is a brief summary of my experience in hopes that you may find yourself inspired to submit a proposal for SFN 2018.
I proposed a workshop on science communication pitched as primarily facilitated discussion rather than a panel of speakers. Here, my personal bias is obvious: I find that connecting with and understanding your audience is crucial to succeeding at science communication. Therefore, my workshop proposal focused on developing a flexible research story that could be easily adapted to connect with a particular listener or group of listeners.
Workshop Description: Participants will develop science communication skills during this active workshop. First, participants will create a short, compelling story for their research. Then, participants will develop a flexible strategy to share their scientific story with any audience. Strategies for being clear, concise and compelling will be discussed. This workshop will provide a short introduction to the core skills needed to successfully communicate science with anyone.
Once my workshop proposal was accepted, I got to work on assembling a group of facilitators. Here, I did things a little backwards. Ideally, you would have your group of panelists, speakers and/or facilitators worked out before you submit your application, but I did not. I just barely made the proposal deadline as it was. Assembling a team was exciting – I suddenly had a reason to connect with several people I respect and admire in science communication!
Once we had a team, we worked out a specific plan to fit our workshop into 2 hours and make it worthwhile for participants and facilitators. This process took a few months, mainly because we started in June – 5 months before the conference. On the day of the workshop, we met an hour before to touch base on the logistics and have everyone meet face-to-face.
During the workshop, we had three 10 minute presentations to introduce topics in science communication. After each presentation, facilitators guided discussion related to the topic at a table of around 10 participants. At the end of each section, we had a few participants report back on what their table discussed. By structuring our workshop this way, we intended for participants to leave with a version of their research story tailored for a particular lay audience and the skills to adapt it for other listeners and audiences. Based on the feedback so far, that worked!
Running a Professional Development Workshop was one of the best returns on time invested that I have had in a long time, and it gave me a chance to meet several new people whom I already admired. I highly recommend it!
If you were at my workshop and liked the format and/or the content – tell SFN so it happens again next year!
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