What Does It Take to Become a Great Science or Technology Speaker?

In my years of working on TEDxToronto and now SingularityU Canada Summit I have worked with a number of scientists and technologists. They are curious people with finely-tuned intellects who apply discipline and logic to everything they do. These traits make them good or even great at their chosen fields. However, these same traits can be a challenge when they are tasked with composing and presenting a talk.

Here are tips for what I believe makes a great science or technology speaker.

Ability to Connect With the Audience

All great speakers connect to their audiences emotionally, they engage and intrigue without overwhelming. This can be difficult when your topic is Astrophysics or Neuroscience or Nanotechnology or Quantum Computing. These are big, technical and complex topics, so how does a speaker create an emotional, compelling connection to their audience? They bring themselves into the the talk. They make it personal. They help us to see and to feel their curiosity and their passion, and they use analogy and metaphor to create an elegantly simple way to explain the complexity of their topic. Quite simply, they use story to carry their complex ideas.

Making an Impact On Their Field of Study

Of course, scientists and technologists must have the credentials to take the stage representing their area of expertise. Beyond just academic credentials, its important they be recognized by peers as well as by those outside of their field. When searching for a great science or technology speaker we ask the following questions: Have they made an impact beyond their field of study? Are they asking questions that have never been asked or answered? Is their vernacular easy to understand?

Simplify the Complex

The truth is great science or technology speakers help to simplify the world around us. They do this by first helping us grasp its complexity by translating their knowledge into stories we understand. Then, by tapping into their natural curiosity and passion, they present us with as solutions to problems we all grapple with.

Here are some of our favourite talks by Scientists and Technologists:

Molly Shoichet – The future of medicine is personal
Brendan Frey – Recipes in our genomes
Margot Taylor – Seeing invisible injury
Keith Vanderlinde – The edge of the Universe from the ends of the Earth
Tarek Ibrahim – Making personal aviation a reality

You may also enjoy this selection science and technology talks as curated by TED in 2016.

Are you interested in becoming a better speaker in your work or personal life? Consider signing up for one of our upcoming workshops.

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