May 8, 2013

How to respect your listeners

Scientific research always speaks to many and ranging specific challenges -- one of which being consideration of the actual knowledge of your audience while not overestimating its expertise on the given topic. At the same time being too straightforward can often come across as disrespectful. The presentations given by scientists are often too complex -- a result of ego more than anything. The audience may perhaps want something pitched at a lower level.

On the other hand, some in the audience may complain that the presentation as a whole was "too simple" for them. Having said that, audiences can react negatively to simple-minded undertones. But the one point an audience never forgives is a lack of respect.

Respect is reflected much more in tone than the content of what is said. A matter-of-fact language is better -- claiming issues precisely how they are and with no doublespeak. For example, if you need something from your boss, just ask for it. A certain amount of straight forwardness should be used, with the end goal of making an effort to assist and not offend your listeners. Provide beneficial wisdom from the result of your failures.

The difference between respect and tone are not always clear and challenging to define. Indeed, they have more to do with the intention that a standard set of protocols that need to be done or accomplished. If you are a PhD student, for example, it would probably be more appropriate to address your supervisor by their first name. Of course, this will depend on him or her and what they are comfortable with, as well as the institutional culture. In email etiquette, opening an email "Dear John" or "Dear Dr Smith" creates distance and not just respect. Of course, the body of the email can also show a lack of respect no matter your opening.

Taking into consideration your intention when talking about science you can come up with a simple guideline. Since the aim is to make the audience an understanding of the topic in question perhaps it is better to get into the habit of writing and talking in a relatively simple way. Instead of perpetuating the complex style seen in papers and other journals, create a description of things as simply as you would when explaining them to a colleague or friend. Bypassing the unnecessary informality shows a respect for the audience. Notions of what should or should not sound "scientific" shouldn't really be catered for if you centre on your objective. And that is: Scientists understand your message.

Written by Dr. Charles Ebikeme and Dr. David Alcantara for The All Results Journals.

No comments:

Post a Comment