Early November, NTC Researcher Ernest Tufuor participated in the UNL Postdoc Science Slam. During this event, Post-Doctorate Researchers presented their work to in-person attendees and Zoom viewers. They had a strict time limit of five minutes to present to an audience of all different backgrounds. The challenge was to explain their research in a way anyone could understand, whether they have prior knowledge in that field or not.
Viewers were invited to watch the competitors in-person or via Zoom. After everyone had presented the audience was given time to vote online by choosing who they thought were the top three speakers. Each presenter received a $100 participation award, while the top three winners received a $650 prize to advance their research.
Ernest is familiar with presentations and has given many at transportation engineering conferences and as part of his academic career. Presenting to a general audience requires some adjustment to the otherwise technical presentations. Ernest came in second through the audience vote by creating a presentation that was easily understandable and relatable to the everyday lives of an audience of different backgrounds in a way that engages them for an effective discussion.
After the competition, Ernest was approached by an organizer of Lincoln Nerd Nite. Nerd Nite is a casual monthly event featuring fun talks and audience participation. They are hosted at local bars where “nerds and non-nerds alike gather to meet, drink, and learn about all kinds of cool stuff.”
The format of these presentations is fun-forward and entertaining rather than technical. Ernest mentions the challenge is to tap into areas of his research that is often underestimated when presenting to other colleagues. For example, in formal presentations he will skip over the explanations of simple transportation terms about safety or mobility such as links, segments, corridors, peak periods, etc. In informal presentations these are critical to lay the foundation for an effective engagement. “I have come to realize that improving my science communication skills through such informal engagements makes me appreciate the need to always understand the basic research concept.”
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