In the second episode of Engaging Audiences, Shari Graydon emphasizes the use of visual material when trying to convey your message.
Intro music courtesy of
Your research is important and deserves as much attention as possible. But if no one can understand what you’re talking about, what’s the point?
University Affairs magazine and Informed Opinions have teamed up to bring you a video series on how to communicate your research to a wide audience. Hosted by Shari Graydon, it will offer tips on making what you know and do more accessible and engaging.
Improving your ability to communicate your research clearly and concisely can help you secure funding, impress in job interviews and even just refocus your brain when you get stuck on a paper or article.
Informed Opinions trains and supports experts — especially women — in making their knowledge and ideas more accessible to a broader audience. The non-profit project delivers keynotes that motivate scholars to engage with media, and workshops that give them tips and tools to do so more effectively.
Ryan stood at the front of my communications class to deliver his final report. His topic was the same as all of his other Turf management colleagues: how to keep trees on a golf course healthy. And yes, it was a bit of a long afternoon.
But Ryan, dressed in a green shirt and brown pants, raised his arms above his head, and declared, “I am a tree.” That was the cue for his buddies in the back row to start pelting him with ping pong balls.
Twenty-five years later, I’m still citing his communications effectiveness.
Can you demonstrate the importance or impact of YOUR work in a way that’s visual? Have you tried?
Physical demonstrations aren’t always possible. But that old cliché – “a picture’s worth a thousand words”? – there’s something to it.
We respond to images. That’s why we watch TV, buy magazines, go to movies. More so than ever before, we’re used to absorbing information in visual formats.
So if you can enhance our understanding of your material by illustrating it in some way by illustrating it, why wouldn’t you?
Sometimes a graph or a chart can say in one image what you’d require hundreds of words to explain. But of course, it has to be clear.
And one large format photograph is often better than five little ones that are hard to make out.
But keeping your audience in mind, you want to choose the RIGHT photograph.
University of Calgary molecular biologist Debbie Kurrasch was recently asked to explain her research about the impact of Bysphenoal A and S on zebra fish to a group of international journalists. She initially used this image on her title slide. But she replaced it with this one, because the results of her study have implications for women in the first trimester of pregnancy.
Finally, making it visual doesn’t mean you have to have a slide deck.
When Einstein wanted to explain the theory of relativity to the non-genius population, he used an analogy to make it vivid.
He explained that spending 30 seconds sitting on a hot stove feels infinitely longer than passing 30 minutes in the presence of a beautiful woman.
Our minds automatically conjure up images of a hot stove or a beautiful woman. And that keeps us engaged in a way that technical descriptions or theoretical analysis just won’t.
UBC immunologists Georgia Perona-Wright and Pauline Johnson are concerned about the health threat posed by falling vaccination rates. To dispel widespread ignorance, they wrote a newspaper commentary.
In it they said, “Vaccinating against measles is like pulling up the drawbridge to your castle, refusing to let the virus in. If everybody does the same thing, the virus has no refuge and is condemned to a lonely death outside.”
Language itself can be tremendously visual. And images of all kinds can engage audiences and enhance understanding.
For University Affairs magazine, I’m Shari Graydon of Informed Opinions.