Scientifically Speaking


Jo Filshie Browning
Practical Inspiration Publishing, £24.99

Whether preparing your first scientific presentation or as a keynote speaker at a major international conference, the general advice on public speaking is to speak slowly and clearly, never read from your slides, keep to time, and practice, practice, practice! As seniority and experience grows, most of us develop our own format - and although that may work well, it is often inadequate for the diversity of scenarios in which you are expected to present.

Welcome Jo Filshie Browning, taking a supportive look at scientific speaking. Going beyond run-of-the-mill scientific presentations to your peers, Browning considers presentations to students, to potential sponsors, politicians, regulators, perhaps to a judge, or to the media, to school students preparing for university entrance, or perhaps younger children, and of course to the general public. As Browning makes clear, what might be ideal for one group may be wholly inappropriate for others. No matter how well you know your subject, you may leave the audience at a loss unless you pitch it appropriately, a skill we ignore at our peril.

Digital invisibility detracts from the value and impact of your work and Browning promotes a strong and ongoing digital presence as a way of strengthening the impact of oral presentations, and of published papers also, irrespective of the audience and venue. She offers sound advice to craft your scientific message in ways tailored precisely to the audience and to the method of delivery. The book concludes by offering advice on managing online presentations that have come to the fore in the post-COVID era.

It is more important than ever for scientists to be heard and master the art of influential speaking - but this is rarely if ever taught in science-based university courses. Educators must consider training in the many facets of science communication in their courses, but until then, this concise book will help. Don’t believe it? Be assured it will not be long until you present at a new venue and to a wholly ‘different’ audience. A ‘one size fits all’ approach will rarely succeed.

Ian Blenkharn FRSB