Did you know that one of the most effective ways to bridge the communication divide is by using analogies? Researchers and scientists need every tool in their toolkit to get their message across to diverse audiences. Thankfully, the University of Virginia’s Marlit Hayslett was generous enough to share her insights on this critical topic.
Marlit is the Director of Communication Training and Strategy at the University of Virginia (UVA). In this role, Marlit works with faculty and graduate students on how to effectively communicate their research to non-technical audiences such as the public, media, and policymakers. During her time at UVA, she has taught five credit-bearing courses and offered over ten workshops focused on topics such as audience analysis, message design, and presentation skills.
From 2004 to 2014, Marlit served as the founding director of the Office of Policy Analysis and Research (OPAR) at the Georgia Tech Research Institute in Atlanta. The OPAR team studied science and technology (S&T) policy at the state-level and used their findings to inform S&T policy in Georgia. These efforts led to collaboration with Georgia’s technology business community resulting in a strategic plan for science, technology, and innovation in the state of Georgia. Based on her experience engaging policymakers on science topics, Marlit has led several national and international conference panels and workshops on communicating science to policymakers and media.
Marlit received her Master’s degree in Public Policy, her Master’s degree in International Affairs, and her Bachelor’s degree in International Affairs from the Georgia Institute of Technology.
What You’ll Hear On This Episode of When Science Speaks
- [1:00] Mark introduces his guest, Marlit Hayslett.
- [3:30] Why do scientists and researchers struggle to communicate with non-experts?
- [7:00] How using analogies can help bridge the communication divide.
- [10:00] What is the role of identity when communicating research?
- [13:45] Marlit talks about the “Three-minute thesis” and what she’s currently working on.
- [20:30] Do you have to “Dumb down” your content for it to appeal to non-experts?
Connect with Marlit Hayslett
Resources & People Mentioned
Why using analogies works
How do you take complex topics and make them approachable to a wider audience? Can this be done without “Dumbing down” your message? All too often researchers and scientists get pegged – fairly and at times unfairly – for creating barriers with the jargon and language they use. While there is no definitive “Hack” you can use to eliminate these barriers, using analogies can have a profound impact on getting your message across.
When you use analogies – you get to take a complex topic and compare them to something in the everyday world. Marlit saw a wonderful example of using analogies from her student who was working on a chemical process that takes place in bacteria. That student explained that the process was like a house with a fence around it with different gates. Once Marlit heard that – she realized the value of using analogies to distil complex topics.
What is the heart of your research?
Using analogies doesn’t, “Dumb down” your language or your message – it actually expands your message. Even technical folks appreciate it when their peers make an effort to short cut jargon and terms for more approachable concepts. Do you want to have your research findings make an impact? Then start using terms, phrases, and analogies that everyday people can comprehend.
The rise in popularity of the “Three-minute thesis,” is a great example of why using analogies and other “Short-cuts” are making traction in academia and beyond. Do you have your three-minute thesis down? It’s such an encouraging time with leaders like Marlit Hayslett who are working hard to remove barriers and equip student, researchers, and scientists with tools and insights to take their message to a broader audience.
Don’t miss Mark’s full conversation with Marlit on this engaging episode of When Science Speaks.
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