SciComm Lit Review: “Talk like TED: The 9 public-speaking secrets of the world’s top minds”

 

Reviewer: Jennifer Purrenhage, PhD

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What is the reviewer’s motive (expertise, curiosity, sharing lessons learned, etc.) and perspective (research scientist, educator, science communicator, etc.)? 

I am a scientist and a science educator. As a lecturer in the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment at the University of New Hampshire, and the current Secretary of ESA’s Science Communication Section, I love reading about science communication, and about improving communication in general, both for selfish reasons (personal and professional development) and for my students. I teach the theory and practice of science communication to undergrad majors and non-majors in all my courses.

Who can benefit from reading and referencing this SciComm Lit (researchers, reporters, science communicators, educators, students, etc.)? 

Anyone whose objective is to communicate a story to a live audience (especially if you have watched TED talks and wished that’s how you reached your audience) can benefit from reading this book.

Gallo did not focus on science communication, but scientists are among his examples. The observations, insights, and tips included in this book will speak differently to each of us depending on our roles and our goals. I refer to this book when re-designing my lectures, mentoring students on preparing research presentations, teaching about science communication, and speaking to audiences of colleagues. Many students and colleagues have purchased their own copy of this book after borrowing mine or hearing my favorite tips.

When I first read this book, I was so inspired that I set out to transform every lecture in my Gen-Ed course into a TED talk.

Warning: do NOT attempt to make every presentation a TED talk!

I should have known. Gallo writes that many TED speakers reworked and practiced their 18-minute TED talks for a full year before the filmed event.

Marginal Notes (the good & the bad): favorite takeaways and productive points of disagreement.  

I have referenced my well-annotated copy many times since I first read Talk Like TED. This was the book that got me over my apprehension of writing in books. I had always kept a separate journal for notes on the books I was reading, but I couldn’t keep from writing up and down the margins of this book!

Many of my favorite takeaways were not novel concepts to me. Rather, they expanded on existing ideas, presented familiar information in a fresh context, or served as important reminders of the things we know but do not always do.

I imagine most of us already believe in the power of storytelling. In this book, you’ll read about how some of the best-received TED speakers used stories to power their talks. As I read, I remembered a flood of my own best stories that I’d never before shared in lectures. I started a list of my stories on one of the end pages, noting the lecture topics each story might be paired with. I quickly incorporated some into lectures. Sharing my stories has made presenting more enjoyable for me, and my students return years later to tell me what the stories meant to them.

Lessons from cognitive science. Most of my own presentation improvements are rooted in lessons from cognitive science. This book was instrumental in many of my upgrades! You’ll learn about “the alchemy of laughter” and “the power of icky,” transforming verbal information into visual information (and the Picture Superiority Effect), and more tools for enhancing audience engagement and retention. Also, I personally love meta-teaching, and there are some great tips in this book to help you explain the science behind these techniques to students and colleagues.

Warning 2: If you’re an educator and you’re not into meta-teaching yet, this book may start you on a slippery slope.

The importance of our presence as speakers. Gallo encourages us to “step outside our slides” and use props selectively. We are instructed to share the stage with multiple voices. We are reminded that connecting with our audience requires us to lighten up and be authentic, and that authenticity doesn’t happen naturally. (Yes, you read that right.)

I realize my review is effusive. That doesn’t mean there aren’t things about this book I didn’t like. There is one page in particular on which I crossed out an entire passage (and I might have sworn a little in my marginal note). But, those passages are few, and frankly, I find them just as instructive and helpful as the ones I marked with stars, hearts, and exclamation points. I am intentionally excluding here the passages I took issue with because you and I will undoubtedly find different issues with the ideas presented, and that’s a good thing. I believe that these points of disagreement with the ideas in this book can help us clarify what we understand, as individuals, about good communication.

Book Citation & Summary (from publisher):

Gallo, C. (2014). Talk like TED: The 9 public-speaking secrets of the world’s top minds. New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press.

Ideas are the currency of the twenty-first century. In order to succeed, you need to be able to sell your ideas persuasively. This ability is the single greatest skill that will help you accomplish your dreams. Many people have a fear of public speaking or are insecure about their ability to give a successful presentation. Now public speaking coach and bestselling author Carmine Gallo explores what makes a great presentation by examining the widely acclaimed TED Talks, which have redefined the elements of a successful presentation and become the gold standard for public speaking. TED—which stands for technology, entertainment, and design—brings together the world’s leading thinkers. These are the presentations that set the world on fire, and the techniques that top TED speakers use will make any presentation more dynamic, fire up any team, and give anyone the confidence to overcome their fear of public speaking.

In his book, Carmine Gallo has broken down hundreds of TED talks and interviewed the most popular TED presenters, as well as the top researchers in the fields of psychology, communications, and neuroscience to reveal the nine secrets of all successful TED presentations. Gallo’s step-by-step method makes it possible for anyone to deliver a presentation that is engaging, persuasive, and memorable.

 

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Announcing new SciComm/Engagement Lit Review series!

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By Christopher Michel from San Francisco, USA (Ladakh) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Our SciComm/Engagement Lit Review series launches this week!

The Lit Review series features contributed reviews of books and other scicomm and engagement resources. Reviews provide unique content about lit that has direct or indirect relevance to the wide range of scicomm careers, approaches, and interests of Section members.

We seek SciComm/Engagement Lit Reviews (book review-style), and we welcome co-authored reviews. Continue reading Announcing new SciComm/Engagement Lit Review series!

#MySciComm: Jente Ottenburghs on adding humour to your science

This week, Dr. Jente Ottenburghs, a Belgian stand-up comic, biologist, and science writer responds to the #MySciComm questions!

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Jente Ottenburghs presenting/performing at ScienceBattle-Rotterdam (photo courtesy of Jente Ottenburghs)

Jente Ottenburghs is a biologist and freelance science writer. He obtained his PhD at the University of Wageningen (the Netherlands) where he studied the genetics of hybridizing geese. During his PhD, Jente discovered his passion for sharing science with a broad audience. Currently, he combines his scientific work (as a postdoc in Sweden) with popular science writing. Connect with Jente @jente_o, through e-mail or on his website.

The #MySciComm series features a host of SciComm professionals. We’re looking for more contributors, so please get in touch if you’d like to write a post!

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Okay, Jente…

1) How did you get into the kind of SciComm that you do?

I can levitate birds. But nobody cares.

Continue reading #MySciComm: Jente Ottenburghs on adding humour to your science

Inspiration and Encouragement for New and Potential SciComm-ers: #MySciComm 2017 in Review

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#MySciComm contributors had a lot to say in 2017 about how to get into, and get better at, scicomm and engagement. Trainings, like this “Improv Your Science” workshop at #ESA2017 facilitated by ESA chairperson-elect Annaliese Hettinger, were high on the list. Read on for more tips and resources from 2017 contributors. (Photo by Annaliese Hettinger)

Retrospective by Jennifer Purrenhage, series co-editor and Communication and Engagement Section secretary

Bethann Garramon Merkle’s recent #MySciComm 2017 Year in Review highlighted takeaways from our 2017 contributors on building human connections through scicomm.

As I looked back on the 2017 #MySciComm contributions, an additional set of theme emerged from our contributors. They offered advice and encouragement for those of us looking to either up our communication and engagement  game or transition from an existing career path or position into a scicomm position.

1. Start Now.

You might imagine countless reasons for waiting, or perceived obstacles to getting started in scicomm. But our 2017 #MySciComm contributors reminded us of the importance of starting now and starting where you are.

Katie Burke warned that she often gives the advice ‘Start Writing,’ but that people rarely act on it. Katie linked to online resources that can help scicommers pitch their writing to media outlets that she says are ‘hungry for content.’ Katie Burke and Kristina Young both encouraged us to ‘make the time’ to create content because there will never be a perfect time. And they suggested that it likely won’t take as long as we worry it will. Will Chen and I (Jennifer Purrenhage) urged aspiring scicommers to stop aspiring and just start being science communicators. Will suggested creating an example of your particular kind of scicomm and then testing it with family, friends, or even an online community. I reminded readers that there are opportunities to practice and do scicomm in our existing positions — we don’t necessarily need to be somewhere or someone else to get started (and, in fact, we may have already started without realizing it!). Finally, Virginia Schutte offered a different, and valuable, perspective on ‘getting started’ when she discussed what it can be like to get on the job market for a scicomm position before you feel ready. Continue reading Inspiration and Encouragement for New and Potential SciComm-ers: #MySciComm 2017 in Review

Human Connections Through, With & For SciComm: #MySciComm 2017 in Review

Rebecca Johnson
#MySciComm contributors had a lot to say in 2017 about how scicomm and engagement can build human connections and are stronger and more effective because of it. (Photo: #MySciComm contributor Rebecca Johnson, at center, co-directs the Citizen Science program at California Academy of Sciences; photo by Alison Young.)

Retrospective by Bethann Garramon Merkle, series co-editor and Communication and Engagement Section chairperson

Certainly, there is much to be learned from #MySciComm contributors regarding how to incorporate scicomm into research and how to transition into a scicomm career. But we, the editors, think the humanity this series exposes is equally important.

#MySciComm shows us the people behind the science.

In looking back through the #MySciComm contributions from 2017, I noticed that our contributors take that human element a step further. Contributors are museum staffers, research scientists, journalists, professors, and more.

In their experience, science communication and public engagement work is dependent upon human connections. Continue reading Human Connections Through, With & For SciComm: #MySciComm 2017 in Review

#MySciComm: Caitlin Looby on breaking into science journalism without quitting science

This week, Dr. Caitlin Looby, a SciComm Section member, responds to the #MySciComm questions!

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Photo courtesy of Aaron Black-Schmidt

Caitlin Looby is a scientist and a freelance science writer. She earned her PhD in Biology from the University of California, Irvine, her M.S. in Biotechnology at Kean University, and her B.S. in Molecular and Cellular Biology at the University of Connecticut. During graduate school, Caitlin found a new passion, motivator, and purpose in science communication. She recently traded ocean views for mountain views, and lives in Colorado. Connect with Caitlin on @caitlooby, through email, or on her website.

The #MySciComm series features a host of SciComm professionals. We’re looking for more contributors, so please get in touch if you’d like to write a post!

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Okay, Caitlin…

1) How did you get into the kind of SciComm that you do?

In graduate school, I realized that I couldn’t wait to finish a study so I could write about it.

Continue reading #MySciComm: Caitlin Looby on breaking into science journalism without quitting science

#MySciComm: Jennifer Purrenhage on teaching undergrads as SciComm

This week, Dr. Jennifer Purrenhage, our SciComm Section Secretary, responds to the #MySciComm questions!

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Jennifer Purrenhage in Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, Maine (photo by Elizabeth Hooper)

Jennifer is a lecturer in wildlife ecology and environmental conservation at the University of New Hampshire, and the current Secretary of the Science Communication Section of ESA. She emphasizes the study and practice of science communication and engagement in all her courses, and puts her own communication skills to use both as an educator and through her work with local non-profit organizations. Jennifer is also the founder of an organic tea company, and lives in the New Hampshire seacoast with her partner Danny and their two dogs Keeley and Gordon. Connect with Jennifer via email or her website.

The #MySciComm series features a host of SciComm professionals. We’re looking for more contributors, so please get in touch if you’d like to write a post!

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Okay, Jennifer…

1) How did you get into the kind of SciComm that you do?

I was raised in a family that values language, conversation, and an appreciation for nature.

Continue reading #MySciComm: Jennifer Purrenhage on teaching undergrads as SciComm

#MySciComm: Ramesh on learning to do SciComm in graduate school, by going back to middle school

This week, Dr. Ramesh Laungani responds to the #MySciComm questions!

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Ramesh (center) teaching an introductory biology course at Doane University (photo courtesy of Doane University Office of Strategic Communication)

Ramesh is an associate professor of Biology at Doane University. He holds a PhD in biology (ecology and evolution) from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where he studied nutrient cycling in tallgrass prairie. As a professor, he teaches both introductory and upper level biology courses. He is also involved in SciComm with K-12 students through tools like Flipgrid and the 1000 STEM Women Project. Connect with Ramesh online @DrRamBio and at his website.

The #MySciComm series features a host of SciComm professionals. We’re looking for more contributors, so please get in touch if you’d like to write a post!

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Okay, Ramesh…

1) How did you get into the kind of SciComm that you do?

It started in graduate school when I joined Project Fulcrum (PF), a GK-12 program that placed STEM graduate students into K-12 classrooms.

Continue reading #MySciComm: Ramesh on learning to do SciComm in graduate school, by going back to middle school

#MySciComm: On the @ESA_org blog, Series Editors discuss what #MySciComm is and why it matters

By way of resuming the #MySciComm series after a brief pause for #ESA2017, we’re delighted to share with you a recent commentary from #MySciComm series editors. ESA published a version of this commentary on its EcoTone blog during #ESA2017. In case you missed it, we’re republishing it here.

As of today, stay tuned, every other week, for a great fall series of MySciComm!


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Recent #MySciComm contributors rocking the #scientistselfie; see end of post for image credit.

ESA SciComm Section puts the human element front-and-center in #MySciComm blog series and #ESA2017 workshops and special events 

Science Communication is an emerging career path with diverse entry points and skillsets. Have you ever read about a science writer, filmmaker, or blogger and wondered, how in the world did they get THAT job? Or more importantly, how in the world can I get that job?

The ESA Science Communication (“SciComm”) Section was founded to address these questions and more. The section helps ecologists apply best practices in science communication and empowers ecologists to better communicate the stories of science (including stories about the people doing the science) in creative, compelling, and innovative ways. In addition to resources and workshops, the SciComm Section publishes a blog series – #MySciComm – that addresses two core section efforts.

We are committed to professionalizing science communication efforts within and beyond ESA and providing mentorship to ecologists interested in trying out, or transitioning to careers in, science communication.

The #MySciComm series works toward these goals by providing a platform where science communicators can be candid about their work and what it takes to do it. #MySciComm contributors range from journalists to filmmakers, from those at private institutions to public universities, from trained formally to self-taught. Each post ends with advice and resources for people looking to build a career in science communication.

Continue reading #MySciComm: On the @ESA_org blog, Series Editors discuss what #MySciComm is and why it matters

#MySciComm: Lucy Frisch on switching gears from book publicist to science storytelling advocate

This week, Lucy Frisch responds to the #MySciComm questions!

We’re collaborating with Lucy to bring a science storytelling show to #ESA2017 next week! Details here. Join us if you’re in Portland!

 

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Photo courtesy of VGB Photography

 

Lucy is a Marketing Manager at Springer Nature in the Author & Partner Marketing and Services division. She curates author services through the lens of her publicity experience, designing initiatives to promote author empowerment, self-promotion and public engagement. Her focus is on implementing new ways to connect researchers and their work with the public, including the Springer Nature Storytellers program, a science communication initiative that harnesses the power of storytelling in an effort to truly humanize science. Follow her work with the Springer Nature Storytellers program at www.beforetheabstract.com and @b4theabstract.

The #MySciComm series features a host of SciComm professionals. We’re looking for more contributors, so please get in touch if you’d like to write a post!

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Okay, Lucy…

1) How did you get into the kind of SciComm that you do?

Science and math have never exactly been my calling.

Continue reading #MySciComm: Lucy Frisch on switching gears from book publicist to science storytelling advocate