Presentations with and without ‘Story’

23 06 2015

Anyone who reads this blog will know I think a good science presentation needs to consider three factors.

A good science presentation is one that has a compelling story. A good science presentation will also be pitched accurately for its intended audience. A good science presentation will also contain accurately explained science.

Here are two links to videos where science is presented on a chat show in America. On the surface both seem similar. In both the presenter does a great job of engaging a non-science audience with some spectacular demos. Both videos would score highly for audience.

Where they differ though is the first video has no story and consequently very little science content whilst the second has a clear story and as a consequence the science makes much more sense. 

Watch video one (if the link is broken search YouTube for “Science Experiments with Kevin Delaney Jimmy Fallon” and it’s the one posted on 6th May 2014).

The audience was definitely impressed. This is no mean feat considering they’ve come to a show expecting to see popstars and rock musicians. But there is no story and as such the science that is explained is explained poorly at best.

The second video on the other hand works so much better. (If the link is broken search YouTube for “Science Experiments with Kevin Delaney Jimmy Fallon Makes a cloud”).

  Instead of just a random collection of three demos these demos are connected by a story (“we are going to talk about the different densities of three different gases”) and the science just flows.

Kevin does a great job of pitching at the correct style and level to the audience on both occasions. 

Have a look at both videos and see if you can tell the difference in story and science

When I’m being interviewed I sometimes tell journalists my aim this: 

I want my audience to go “wow!” because then I know I’ve got their attention but I also want them to go “aha!” because then I know I’ve connected with them at a deeper and more profound level. 

In the first video we definitely get “wows” but there are no “ahas”. This is a missed opportunity (and you could argue mis-selling given the presenter is wearing a lab coat, safety specs, and we are told “he is going to teach us about science”.) I think the second video is genuinely great because he manages to get both “wows” and “ahas”.

I’ve no doubt that the presenter could very easily have described the science behind the demos in the first video. The problem is because there is no story, because the demos aren’t linked, he trips himself up and gets confused. If the presenter is confused, what chance does the audience stand?

Compare this to the second video because there is a story, an over-arching theme, each of the demos are linked and he is able to build our understanding of the science as we go along.

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