Center Partners with Story Collider, Make It Memorable to Offer Pinch-of-Practice Workshops

This image shows the logo for The Story Collider: a red background, black letters for some words and white for others, and in yellow: "True, personal stories about science."
The center is partnering with The Story Collider to offer storytelling workshops this spring. Image from The Story Collider website.

We know that the lives of graduate students and faculty are very, very full. We also know that, with just a pinch of practice, we can all get better at communicating about our work. To provide that pinch of practice, this spring the Center for Communicating Science is offering a series of lunch-hour workshops.

Each Pinch-of-Practice (POP) workshop will be held over the noon hour (between 60 and 90 minutes), where you’ll get an opportunity to develop some vital communication skills. As with all the work of the center, the workshops will help participants learn to communicate more personally, directly, spontaneously, and responsively. Storytelling skills, expressing emotion, and using visuals effectively also will be covered.

Supported by the Institute of Society, Culture, and Environment (ISCE) and the Fralin Life Sciences Institute (FLSI), some of the POP workshops will be facilitated by Center for Communicating Science director Patty Raun, others by storytelling experts from The Story Collider, and a set focused on data visualization by Danielle Hennis from the Make It Memorable Consulting Studio.

Pinch-of-Practice workshops are open to faculty and graduate students. The full schedule, with registration links, follows. Questions about workshops can be addressed to Lilly Weber at lillyw@vt.edu.

Distilling Your Message: Succinct and Compelling Interactions (facilitated by Patty Raun, Director, Center for Communicating Science)

Many science and industry professionals have been told to “develop your elevator pitch.” This workshop provides a Pinch-of-Practice to help you prepare for brief and compelling interactions that may occur on an elevator, in a media interview, or anywhere. Open to Virginia Tech graduate students and faculty. Capacity: 25 per session

Two dates available: Click here for either date event registration!

  • Tuesday, February 16, from noon to 1 p.m. (with optional after-party for further conversation from 1 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.)
  • Thursday, February 18, from noon to 1 p.m. (with optional after-party for further conversation from 1 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.) 

Presenting Better Virtually: Engage Your Audience in a Virtual Setting ((hosted by the Center for Communicating Science in partnership with Make it Memorable)

In our current world, many of us are on back-to-back Zoom calls and experiencing extreme Zoom fatigue. The COVID-19 virtual world is here to stay for a while. Let’s make sure we’re planning our meetings, conferences, and presentations so that they cater to our audiences and our message is heard. This 40-minute presentation plus Q and A will walk you through how to

  • Set up your desk and workstation so that it doesn’t distract from your content.
  • Apply learning theory to your presentations to engage your audiences.
  • Design your presentations to keep your participants’ attention.
  • Decide how to break up your presentation, meeting, or workshop.

Come with questions, photos of your workspace (if you want feedback) and a presentation you’re working on. We’ll discuss how these principles relate to your presentation, and you’ll have time to ask questions about how it applies to your content.

Click here for event registration!

  • Tuesday, March 2, from noon to 1 p.m.

Learning to Listen: Connecting with Audiences and Collaborators (facilitated by Patty Raun, Director, Center for Communicating Science)

Understanding the perspectives of others is increasingly important in our world, and 85 percent of job success comes from well-developed soft skills. The ability to understand and empathize with others is often seen to be the most valuable of these skills. In this participatory workshop you will get a Pinch-of-Practice about approaches to authentic listening, understanding others’ perspectives, and building trust. Open to Virginia Tech graduate students and faculty. Capacity: 25 per session

Click here for event registration!

  • Thursday, March 4, from noon to 1 p.m. (with optional after-party for further conversation from 1 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.)

Effective Presentations: Building Confidence and Personal Presence (facilitated by Patty Raun, Director, Center for Communicating Science)

It is said that the thought of public speaking is more frightening to many people than death. In this Pinch-of-Practice workshop participants use role-play and improvisation to begin to develop the self-confidence and audience awareness required to deliver presentations that have memorable impact. Come learn a few relaxation techniques, develop awareness of the many ways in which we communicate, turn off your inner critic, and have fun! Open to Virginia Tech graduate students and faculty. Capacity: 25

Click here to register for the event!

  • Tuesday, March 16, from noon to 1 p.m. (with optional after-party for further conversation from 1 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.) 

Making Your Research Understandable: Bridging the Gap (facilitated by Patty Raun, Director, Center for Communicating Science)

Specialized language and detailed explanations can be very useful within disciplinary groups.  Jargon can save us a lot of time when we are talking to those who understand it, but too much complexity or in-group language can exclude the people we most need to connect with. This Pinch-of-Practice workshop will help you address the Curse of Knowledge and manage the downside of jargon. Open to Virginia Tech graduate students and faculty. Capacity: 25

Click here to register for the event!

  • Thursday, March 18, from noon to 1 p.m. (with optional after-party for further conversation from 1 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.) 

Open Sessions for Practice Communicating (facilitated by Patty Raun, Director, Center for Communicating Science)

Bring your message to the group for feedback! Whether you want to practice how to tell your grandmother about your work, give a challenging conference presentation, try out different ways to communicate with folks in other disciplines, or just practice talking about your work in ways that are personal, direct, spontaneous, and responsive—this is your Pinch-of-Practice workshop. Come prepared to share something you are working on, or just come to listen and give feedback! Open to Virginia Tech graduate students and faculty. Capacity: 40 per session

Two dates available (attend one or both):

Click here to register for the event! (one or both dates).

  • Tuesday, March 23, from noon to 1 p.m. (with optional after-party for further conversation from 1 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.)
  • Thursday, March 25, from noon to 1 p.m. (with optional after-party for further conversation from 1 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.) 

Introduction to Storytelling for Scientists (hosted by the Center for Communicating Science in partnership with the Story Collider)

These single session introductory presentations on science storytelling and the science of storytelling will be engaging, fun, and informative. Join us either on Tuesday or Thursday for a 45-minute interactive talk. We will give you an overview of the underlying science and philosophy of first-person storytelling and help you appreciate the value of stories in society and in our lives. Through a mix of scientific research, examples of stories, and some short activities we will engage you in the process of becoming a better storyteller and story listener. Open to Virginia Tech graduate students and faculty. Attending either of these two sessions will allow you to take the hands-on story workshops that follow. Capacity: 50 per session

Sign up for either day!

Click here to register for either date:

  • Tuesday, March 30, from noon to 1:00 p.m.
  • Thursday, April 1, from noon to 1:00 p.m.

Crafting Your Personal Science Story (hosted by the Center for Communicating Science in partnership with the Story Collider)

For those who attended the Introduction to Storytelling for Scientists, this pair of sequential workshops on Tuesday and Thursday will support you in developing and refining a story. By the end of the second of the two sessions, you will have drafted and shared your own true, personal story about science. Your participation in this class means that you’ll be invited to our story-sharing event on the evening of April 23, where five science storytellers will have the chance to share the story they’ve been working on with a group of expert judges! Open to Virginia Tech graduate students and faculty. Capacity: 25

NOTE! This is a two-day workshop sequence (with a prerequisite of attending the presentation on either 3/30 or 4/1). Participants should plan to attend both days!

Click here to register for both days!

  • Tuesday, April 13, from noon to 1:30 p.m. (with optional after-party for further conversation from 1:30 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.) and
  • Thursday, April 15, from noon to 1:30 p.m. (with optional after-party for further conversation from 1:30 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.)

Crafting a Story of Your Research (hosted by the Center for Communicating Science in Partnership with the Story Collider)

For those who attend the Introduction to Storytelling for Scientists on 3/30 or 4/1, and Crafting Your Story on 4/13 and 4/15, this two-session sequence on Tuesday and Thursday will support you in developing and refining the story of your research. By the end of the second session, you will have drafted and shared your own story about your research. Your participation in this class means that you’ll be invited to our story sharing event on the evening of April 23, where five science storytellers will have the chance to share the story they’ve been working on with a group of expert judges! Open to Virginia Tech graduate students and faculty. Capacity: 20

NOTE! This is a two-day workshop sequence. Participants should plan to attend both days!

Click here to register for both days!

  • Tuesday, April 20, from noon to 1:30 p.m. (with optional after-party for further conversation from 1:30 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.) and
  • Thursday, April 22, from noon to 1:30 p.m. (with optional after-party for further conversation from 1:30 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.)

STORY SHARING EVENT! Friday, April 23, 7:00 p.m.  

Rethinking Presentations: Memorable and Influential Presentations (hosted by the Center for Communicating Science in partnership with Make it Memorable)

How often have you had to endure presentations with speakers and slides that taxed your attention? If you can’t pay attention to the presentation, you can’t retain the information. What would have made those presentations—what would make your presentations—memorable, influential, and successful? In this workshop, you will learn how to use structure, visuals, and stories to make memorable presentations. You will rethink how you’ve been making presentations, and you will end the workshop with a step-by-step plan for creating memorable and engaging presentations. Open to Virginia Tech graduate students and faculty. Part 1 in a series. Capacity: 25

Click here to register for the event!

  • Tuesday, April 27, from noon to 1:15 p.m. (with optional time for informal conversation from 1:15 p.m. to 1:45 p.m.)

Decoding Slide Design: Using Science and Art to Make Powerful Visuals (hosted by the Center for Communicating Science in partnership with Make it Memorable)

Do you get stuck when you open up PowerPoint? Are you unsure how to make your slides stand out? Do you struggle creating slides that easily convey information? Come to this Pinch-of-Practice workshop to learn how our brains process visuals, how we can apply that to slide design, and how you can tell your audience what’s important on the slide without saying a word. We’ll cover how the visual language communicates, what you need to consider before you start thinking about slide design, and how you can tailor your content to your target audience. Decoding Slide Design builds on the material discussed in Rethinking Presentations (Tues. April 27). While we encourage you to attend Rethinking before Decoding, you do not need to attend one to understand the other. Open to Virginia Tech graduate students and faculty. Capacity: 25

Click here to register for the event!

  • Thursday, April 29, from noon to 1:15 p.m. (with optional time for informal conversation from 1:15 p.m. to 1:45 p.m.)

Hands-on PowerPoint: Learn How to Turn Theory into Practice (hosted by the Center for Communicating Science in partnership with Make It Memorable)

People often ask:

  • How do I make my presentation look good?
  • How do I make my slides look professional and more visually engaging?
  • How do I take the theory discussed in the workshops Rethinking Presentations and Decoding Slide Design and turn it into practice?

This Hands-On PowerPoint Workshop will walk you through how to apply theories and techniques to slides. Part Three in Make It Memorable’s presentation workshops by Danielle Hennis, Hands-On PowerPoint will teach you how to think like a graphic designer with this set of easy tips. Capacity: 25

Click here to register for the event!

  • Tuesday, May 4, from noon to 1:15 p.m. (with optional time for informal conversation from 1:15 p.m. to 1:45 p.m.)
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