Story Audience Science goes live

27 07 2013

Yesterday, as part of the British Interactive Group Annual Conference, I presented the case for using the three evaluation questions

what’s the story- who’s the audience- where’s the science

If you are not familiar with the questions they are explained in this post.

My argument boils down to this: how can we get ‘better’ at presenting science when we don’t know what ‘good’ is? How can we be reflective practitioners striving to drive up our own standards of presentation when we’ve no structured framework to evaluate what we are doing? And without a set of criteria on which to base our comments how can we give feedback to other presenters or review shows without it becoming personal?

The answer to all questions is we can’t. And our inability to do so is holding us back.

Reflective practice is “the capacity to reflect on action so as to engage in a processReflective Model of continuous learning”, which according to Donald Schon who originated the term, is “one of the defining characteristics of professional practice”. [LINK]

You examine what you are doing (what), in the context of a theory (so what), to inform what your next steps will be (what next) and then repeat the process.

Currently in science presenting we have no agreed set of standards to refer to like other professionals. We don’t have the theory, the ‘so what’. The aim of what’s the story- who’s the audience- where’s the science is to fill that gap. They provide the standards we can apply to our presentations so we can become effectively reflective.

My argument is that it is by adopting these three questions and by striving to be constantly reflective we will become better ourselves and we will be able to help others become better as well.

The first thing that came up at the conference was that there are probably a hundred other questions that you could possibly ask of a presentation and I’d agree wholeheartedly.

The aim of these questions is for them to be a first pass, an overview from which you can then dig deeper as you examine yours or any other presentation. They are deliberately restricted because they have to be useful to an experienced presenter but they also have to be clear enough that someone just starting out can use them too.

The second was to question whether such a simple set of questions could really be applied to all shows. In my talk we ended by examining three very different examples of science presenting. The first was a piece presented by Dr Hal at an event called Bigger Bang 5 , the second was a song and video called The Bloodmobile by They Might be Giants , and the third was a presentation from a children’s science show from Australia called the Curiosity Show .

Even though you’d be hard pressed to find three more different styles of science presentation we were able to have a very useful, constructive discussion using the questions about them all. The aim of these questions is that they will remain relevant to any type of science presentation, to any audience in any venue, and suitable whatever your motivation to present your science.

My aim at the conference is the same aim I have with this blog. It is summed up in the subtitle to the blog itself. Thinking about science presenting. I hope I gave the delegates, and I’ve given you, something to think about. If we all encourage more thought about science presenting then, from what I saw at the 2013 conference, our industry is in safe hands.

I’d like to express my thanks to everyone involved in making the British Interactive Group and its conference this year such a success.

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