Turning Data into Dialogue: Effectively Communicating the Scientific Impact

Isn’t it the case that sometimes, scientists can be so engrossed in their work that they forget not everyone speaks their language? It’s a common affliction. It’s just that, sometimes, scientists share data as if they were talking to their clone. But the hard truth is that your audience might not have the same level of context, expertise, familiarity, vocabulary – and yes, even interest – in your data as you do. 

But how can you bridge this gap?

Picture yourself in your grad school lab or your first job. At the weekly lab meeting, you didn’t have to explain the background of your research every time. Everyone knew the acronyms and techniques. Fast forward to now: you’re in a meeting room full of non-scientists, presenting your data to a group of managers, executives, project team members, and investors. You quickly realize that those acronyms and techniques you used to throw around with abandon are now just causing blank stares.

So, how do you make your data more relatable and understandable to a wider audience? It’s time for a mindset shift. Let’s understand that your audience is not just like you. These people, while intelligent and interested, may not share your enthusiasm for the nitty-gritty details of your data. They have different motives in wanting to know what you know.

What they really want to know is the impact of the data. By impact, I mean, how has this data changed our thinking? What should others know about it? What does the data show is possible? What do you recommend as next steps? These are the questions that are racing through your audience’s minds as you present.

Now, you might be wondering how you can weave this into your presentation without dumbing it down. Know that communicating impact doesn’t mean you’re oversimplifying things. Instead, it’s about making your findings accessible to everyone.

Start by taking a step back and seeing the bigger picture 

Think about how your data fits into the grander scheme of things. What change could it bring about? Why should the audience care?

Craft a compelling story

Every good story has a beginning, middle, and end. Start with a quick introduction that gives some context and sets the stage. Then, share your key findings, focusing on what’s most important to your audience. 

Every story needs a conclusion

Wrap up your story with the impact of your data and your recommendations. Remember, you’re not just sharing data; you’re telling a story that makes your audience care about the data.

In a nutshell, it’s not just about presenting the data, but about making an impact by highlighting its implications. So, it’s time to switch gears, connect with your audience through a compelling data-driven narrative, and watch as they show their appreciation for your efforts.

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