So I thought yesterday was busy! This morning shifted up a gear. 8 talks down and my head was spinning. Jumping between biofilm lipid constitution, sodium channel lipid dependence and GPCR oligomer kinetics was certainly testing my brain at 8am.
But after a brief walk into the city center and a refreshing turn around the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, the main museum thoroughfare, I felt a little more energised. I returned to the Communicating Science session, organised by the Public Affairs Committee, which gave me some great insight into the way that scientists can successfully interact with the media to help to educate the public. The speakers, Paul Offit, Maiken Scott and Derrick Pitts all spoke passionately about their experience on both sides of the interviewer’s microphone. Tips from the panel seemed to centre around making sure that you do your research. Knowing who your audience are, what their level of interest is and what they really want to learn are critical if you are going to successfully grab their attention. Derek Pitts said you have 10 seconds to get someone interested in what you are talking about (If you have read this far into my post then I guess I have done my job right!).
One of the recurring themes of the discussion was the issue of editing. You may spend half an hour talking to an interviewer about your work and only come away with a 15-second sound bite. This means that you have to make sure you set out the parameters of any interaction with the media: make sure you know who you are dealing with and how you are likely to be portrayed (the victim, the hero or the villain in Oprah’s trifecta of characters).
The take home message: engage with media, it can be a very engaging experience and a great opportunity to inspire, but make sure you do your research!