This weekend, I participated in the Science Online 2010 conference at the Research Triangle in North Carolina, at the request of Karen James of the HMS Beagle Project. We connected on Twitter. She works in the UK. I work in DC. We met for the first time in North Carolina. Pretty cool, huh!
Our panel focused on how to get use online resources to share our stories with a broader audience for maximum impact.
One question at the end of our panel stuck with me. One geneticist commented that missions we shared in our panel -- to space and deep sea -- engaged the audience through the drama of adventure. She expressed frustration that her genetics field held less pazazz.
How does an "average" scientist communicate effectively, create new communities around the research?
Great question. I heard it often this weekend at the conference.
But let me ask it differently: is the communication about the subject/research OR about our passion around it? Aren't we all passionate about something? If something amazing (or awful) happens, don't we want to share it? Isn't that what communication is all about?
Meaningful communication = sharing what matters most.
So perhaps the question should be: how to rise above the white noise, the chatter. How can we be heard by those we want to hear what we have to say?
How do we find, share, engage, and build communities?
First things first. You can't communicate what you've haven't articulated even to yourself. Let's figure out what you care about.
What's your passion-point?
Here's a little formula that may help:
1. Ask yourself why you do the things you do each day -- your research, your writing, your challenges?
- What brought you to this field in the first place?
- What grand world problem awaited you that you wanted to address when you first started down this path (field of study, career path, skills development).
- What wakes you up in the morning that you want to tackle each day?
- What would be success to you if you could push that magic "ah ha" button?
2. Collect all these thoughts and commit them to words on a page -- (wiki or paper).
- Write as much as you need.
- Take as long as you need.
- Keep adding points. They don't have to be coherent.
- Stop only when you have nothing left to say.
3. Let these thoughts rest -- a week, at least, once you think you're finished. (I promise they'll keep invading your brain, especially in the shower or on the treadmill.)
4. Dare to open your document again after a suitable rest.
- Most importantly, make an outline of what you've written.
5. Analyze/evaluate your outline.
- Consolidate points.
- Rank your points from most important to least.
- Put aside all but the number one MOST important thing. (I'm talking about that "thing" keeps you going each and every day EVEN when traffic is horrible, the coffee pot is broken, the plumbing leaks, and the kids are sick.)
5. Congratulations. You've identified your passion-point. Yay!! Hurrah!
6. Party over. We have work to do. We need to dissect the passion-point you identified.
- Why is this so important to you? Make a list.
- Why should it be important to me?
- What would happen in this world if you didn't pursue this one thing you care about?
- Who else cares about this?
- Who should care about this?
- Who would you like to care?
- Whose lives would be changed by this?
- What happens if no one cares?
- For those who should care, what else do they care about?
- Can you connect your passion with their passion?
7. With these point in mind, write one paragraph about your passion-point -- clear, concise, confident. Make sure any reader is left with no doubt as to what this means to you and why we should care.
Whew! You've done a great deal of work.
Now that you've figured out your passion-point and why others should care, you can begin to reach out and build communities around your passion through social media tools that we discussed in our panel: Broader Impact Done Right. Quick rundown: creative use of blogs, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flick, interactive games, etc. As we learned from our students attending the conference, it's all about the buzz and social interaction.
If you're a one-man/woman show and have no resources, think about connecting with students/schools to create the buzz and community for you. If you can infect them with your passion, they can help get the word out for you in their way through their connections -- which are pretty amazing.
But, you can't communicate through any of these options if you don't know what you want to communicate or to whom you want to engage.
If you haven't figured out your passion-point yet, you've got work to do. Either dig deeper, or look around for something new to do -- work, home, or school. Is it really worth living another day without something you can get excited about?
Get busy. Find your passion. Once you know, you can share your passion with us. We're waiting!
Crosspost on BethBeck's Blog.