This is a guest post from one of our judges for the Chemistry World Science Communication Competition

 

The other judges have had their say and now it is my turn. They’ve covered some fundamental rules of science communication (ie what you say, how you say it, how you go about telling a compelling story) and have given invaluable advice from their many years of experience and knowledge: ‘There’s no substitute for a good story,’ says Philip Ball; ‘Keep the language simple,’ advises Adam Hart-Davis; ‘Form needs to match content,’ Felicity Mellor tells us; ‘Let your enthusiasm for the story shine through,’ concludes Lesley Yellowlees. So what can I add to this? What can I say that has not been said already?

I’d like to get you to think about the audience. I want to emphasise the importance of engaging with  readers, listeners and viewers out there. If you get all the elements of your article, video or podcast right (ie you’ve got a good story that is relevant, and you use simple, jargon-free language) you are half way towards achieving your goal of successfully communicating science. But how can you ensure you make it all the way? Why should the readers read or the viewers view? In my opinion, the style you choose to deliver your piece is what makes the difference. If you are a budding writer or communicator, you are at the beginning of your career and you’ll be working towards defining your style. You are at a crucial point. My advice would be to spend some time analysing the style of a communicator whose work you enjoy and thinking: ‘What is it that compels me to read or watch?’ Is it their use of humour that captures my attention? Is it their knowledge of the subject? Or is it the way they present complex issues? Don’t be constrained by finding a science communicator, he/she does not have to be a scientist – it could be a teacher, a journalist, a TV presenter, a politician. The point is: if they engage with you so you listen to what they have to say and you are able to understand how they achieve it then you are also on the road to success. So define what you like and adapt elements of their style but don’t imitate them (everybody is trying to be Steve Jobs and it really doesn’t work…). Whatever you do, don’t leave your personality out!

Equally, you can turn the exercise on its head, think of communicators whose style does not engage you and write a ‘what not to do’ list. It is very often simpler to see the bad than the good.

Finally, I’d like to encourage you all to take part. If you have an interest in science communication or are working on some interesting chemistry you’d like to talk about, take the plunge!

 

Bibiana Campos-Seijo

 

You can find out about the Chemistry World Science Communication Competition and submit your entry here

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