Book Review: “Sell Your Research: Public Speaking for Scientists”

Three copies of a book titled Sell Your Research are displayed on a table.

Have you ever thought of the art of scientific public speaking as similar to perfecting a French chocolate soufflé? The authors of Sell Your Research: Public Speaking for Scientists have!

Alexia Youknovsky and James Bowers compare scientific presenters to chefs: Even the best chefs “fudge it” sometimes, but anyone can learn how to master the dessert with the right ingredients. With your “ingredients” (i.e., your research content) and the authors’ “killer recipe,” you will find the “utensils” needed to help add your personal flair to presentations.

A 2020 Springer publication, this book recognizes the importance—and moral imperative—of communicating your scientific research. Scientists often put presenting their research on the back burner, the authors say, but clearly communicating your findings opens up many opportunities: a sense of pride, further funding, an expanding network of collaborators and colleagues, and much more.

Sell Your Research is written by professionals from Agent Majeur, a science communication agency that specializes in assisting researchers promote their work. The company’s slogan is “Adding value to science.”

Alexia Youknovsky, the founder and CEO of Agent Majeur, and James Bowers, Ph.D., a science communication consultant and coach at Agent Majeur, use their research experience to train and consult with others in public speaking and science writing.

Youknovsky and Bowers describe the SELL method (Skeleton, Envelope, Life, and Logistics), their sworn-by presentation preparation technique. The authors find the SELL method to be the key for all scientists to improve their communication and public speaking skills. It goes as follows:

  1. Build a Skeleton: Here you will develop a well-structured plan and a clear message related to the context of your project and your audience.
  2. Make an Envelope: Next you will start wrapping up your message, choosing a hook, design, and supporting materials.
  3. Breathe Life and fine tune Logistics: Now, add your “personal flair” through practice! Carry your presentation through to a polished performance.

The sections of the book break down each step within their three-part method.

This book is useful for speakers at all levels, but especially beginners, to find ways to better present their research. It provides case studies; offers examples of hooks, transitions, analogies, and good slide designs; and gives read-worthy tips on common slip-ups, like tone, body language, and speed of talking.

The authors point out that effort and time are required to build public speaking skills—and that the effort and time are amply rewarded: “Public speaking can become a real pleasure, for both those who are speaking and those who are listening.”

By Catherine Watling, Center for Communicating Science student intern

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