Why YOU Need an Improv Class for Science Communication

Alan Alda and Uri Alon are advocating for scientists to learn improvisational theatre for more effective science communication.  They’re right. YOU need an improv class. And here’s why:

Every year, just before classes resume,  the dean of my college welcomes the faculty back with a keynote about last year’s accomplishments and this year’s plans. In 2011, the faculty was assembled and the dean was mid-speech. His voice is resonant and he’s a natural storyteller. As usual, the talk was good.

But then.

Something strange.

Was that just me?

Did the room just move?

The faculty shifted in their seats. Then whispered. Then started talking out loud in full voice to one another.

YUP. There had been and earthquake. A singularly unexpected occurrence for Southeast Virginia.

Our dean…

did.  not.  stop.  talking.

The earthquake was not on his script so he just went on. Faculty whispering and exclaiming during his speech was not on his agenda so he simply kept talking.

Despite his resonant voice and excellent storytelling strategies, our dean showed a deficiency in his presentation training. He, like you, needs an improv class.

Photo of rabbit hiding under a table entitled "Olaf Disapproves of Earthquakes." Courtesy of flickr Creative Commons.
“Olaf Disapproves of Earthquakes” by Ketzirah Lesser and Art Drauglis from flickr. Even Olaf acknowledges an earthquake in Virginia. Take a lesson from him.

The purpose of improvisation as a practice is to teach actors (and other performers like deans and science- talk-givers)  to think on their feet, respond in the moment, and connect with the audience.

PLUS, you’ll be flexible enough to take cover should tectonic plates shift due to the quality of your science communication.



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