Radio communication

Radio Conversations: The Art of Science Radio Communication

Our guest writer for this piece is Mark Kesling. Mark is the founder and CEO of The pursuit of daVinci, an Indianapolis-based nonprofit organization dedicated to engaging the community in meaningful science-based educational experiences through integration with the arts. He writes on a radio show he co-hosts with Public Radio Reporter Jill Ditmire (WFYI) called “She Says Art / He Says Science. Each episode features an artist and a scientist discussing their collaborations tackling the same problem from seemingly different perspectives. We are thrilled to present this piece because we have seen first hand the impact the daVinci Pursuit has had in our local community. –JMO

What motivates a doctor or scientist to pursue an idea, notion or theory? What language can we develop to more accurately describe our findings and suggestions? Conversations with patients, funders and the community are challenging for practicing professionals. We are rarely trained in ways to directly communicate new ideas or solutions to problems in a way that leads to better understanding and better health.

Our research (4-year NSF grant) on how scientists communicate with the public revealed the following key findings:

  1. Language creates a barrier. Scientists use jargon and technical words to communicate relatively simple ideas, creating a disconnect between professionals and members of the community.
  2. Culture creates distance. Scientists come from a different philosophical base, where being skeptical, curious, and often logical is central to conversations with non-scientists.
  3. There is a notion that scientists are on the fringes of society and as such seem somehow removed from the normal part of society. While the reality is quite different, the public still perceives science as removed from their daily lives.
  4. The intersection between science and community can be viewed in psychological terms. Word investmentmeans to attract psychic energy. When you identify a problem and become obsessed with it, you become passionate. It is this passion for the “quest” that drives scientists much more than “obtaining” the answer.
  5. Learners approach learning something new like a child with simple naivety. Once the information is learned and dissected, the initial wonder passes. At this point, it is possible to submit again to this wonder; this is the second naivety. It uses complexity. It’s simplicity on the other side of complexity.
  6. As science progresses, a gap is created between research and the average person who wants to know more about science. We are at a point where science is becoming so specialized that it is almost impossible to involve non-scientists in science – and we will only reach people who really want to know something.
  7. There is a new realism about science in terms of benefits to society and no longer assuming that science can solve problems. There was once optimism that science was moving in one direction and it was positive. A growing number of people now seem to doubt the usefulness of experts and science in our society.

Improving communication between professionals and the community is where the art of radio comes in. Radio has the unique ability to help people listen to new ideas and speak more freely than if they were sitting in a room and listening to a lecture. When done well, radio can create an intimate space where scientists and the listener can engage in conversation. For the scientist, this removes the barriers posed by other media formats, including print and television. The level of anxiety is lower and when there is a good facilitator (host), understanding can occur.

Again, our research and experience has shown that a good radio host paired with a few scientists in a live format creates an experience for the audience that helps both parties process complex concepts and ideas, allowing the facilitator to act as an “interpreter”. ” that can bridge the gap.

For conversations to be effective, the following things need to happen:

  1. Listen more than talk. Your goal here is to find out as much as you can about the caller and host so you can engage with their level of understanding and language. Suspend preconceived judgments and remove yourself from the role of “expert”.
  1. Talk about things that interest the listener. As you listen to the caller, jot down some notes about what he is asking and what he is saying. Try to find ways to make a personal connection when answering the questions. It’s also good to ask questions.
  1. Think of your audience as one person. Even if a show has many listeners and guests, try to focus on one person. The individual can be an actual caller or just someone you can imagine being “out there”.
  1. Keep energy in your voice. Enthusiastic people are more interesting to listen to. So leave your clinical side in the car on the way to the studio. Try to be aware of your posture and your emotions. Emotions are key to creating a connection with your listener. Try to avoid presenting ideas and concepts as having no answers. The public must have a feeling of hope and that you are helping to find a solution one day to the most complex problems.
  1. The microphone is your friend. Be aware of the microphone, but don’t make it the focus of your conversation. Speak clearly and try to keep head movements directed towards the microphone when speaking. Keep some distance from the mic and let the studio technician or host control the volume to match your normal voice. If you turn your head away from the mic or use big gestures like hitting the table or slapping the mic, you’re creating a louder sound than normal on the radio due to the amplification used.
  1. Be yourself. People can detect when someone is not themselves. This may stem from a role perceived for years as “the expert”, from clinical settings or simply from discomfort with speaking in public. You’re having a conversation with someone who wants to hear what you have to say, otherwise they wouldn’t listen to you.

Interviewing or presenting information to a person and having a conversation with them are two different things. Finding a common thread, being genuinely curious, and wanting to hear what the other person is telling you will help form the base of the broadcast audience. They will notice the empathy and respect you show the caller and will also be more willing to participate in the show.

Edited by Jason Organ, PhD, Indiana University School of Medicine.


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