Blog > Improving science communications with improv

August 29, 2010

In another life I was a science communicator, working with scientists to help them tell the story of their work. This was at a time when story and science was rarely in the same sentence, when enthusiasm for the work was tempered by the protocols of research, and when everything was told in the third person. I guess not much has changed.

And if I had known about improv (improvisational theatre) back then I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have had the courage, enthusiasm and conviction to use improv in my work and in training. Not so today.

This video shows Alan Alda taking a communications class with scientists and using improv theatre games to help them connect with their whole bodies, with their story and to allow their natural enthusiasm for their work to emerge. The before and after clips are very telling. I particularly liked this comment: “It’s much easier when you make it up, then when you write it up the night before.” Of course, she wasn’t referring to making up the story, rather to improvising the story and sharing her message. I think it’s important for all of us to share our messages, rather than just information. Messages affect us emotionally, and can be supported by data and information. But you are unlikey to change my mind or get buy-in to your idea just by bombarding me with more information.

This class using improv games and principles enables these scientists to show their enthusiasm and passion for their work, and hence communicate more effectively. Who wouldn’t want that?

Hat tip: Geoff Brown

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