Carl Sagan summed up the dilemma all too well decades ago:
“We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology.”
Public understanding and appreciation of science is, without question, of great importance to our society, yet, studies continue to show very low levels among the adult public. The gap between the scientific community and the “lay” public may be larger than we like, but it’s not the fault of either side. The good news is it can be bridged surprisingly easily!
Scientists and engineers spent a lot of time and energy gaining expertise in their field. Their education did not likely include training on how to communicate with lay audiences. That’s not surprising since learning to perfect technical talks is critical to their success! Unfortunately, technical talks go over like a lead balloon with non-technical audiences. Even the most brilliant scientists may not realize that presentation habits and styles they’ve mastered to convey their work are, in fact, the complete opposite of what works for lay audiences.
If you, or those you work with, are challenged with communicating pretty complicated, but important, ideas and concepts to lay audiences, please don’t give up in frustration. I can help you understand rather easy approaches that will greatly improve your effectiveness with those you want to reach, whether it’s the general public, policymakers or the media. That means greater professional success for you and gratitude and a positive reception from your audience. (And, it would serve to advance our society, which Carl would certainly appreciate.)