Public Speaking

Organizing a Talk

It’s as simple as 1-2-3…

  1. Get their attention.
  2. Tell your story.
  3. Reinforce your message.


Some of the most accomplished, in–demand speakers made their first public presentation to their child’s third grade class, a local Girl Scout troop, or a dozen friends at the local library. The easiest way to get started as a science communicator is to speak at local, non-threatening gatherings. It is almost axiomatic that as your skill and comfort level grows so will the size and importance of your audiences.


If you feel that your work is worthwhile, then you have a story to tell that is worth hearing. Accepting opportunities to speak to business, fraternal and professional groups is usually the first step in becoming a science communicator. Such organizations usually have a program chairman whose job it is to find interesting speakers for what may be as many as 50 weekly meetings a year. They are always pleased to be contacted by a professional who has an interesting program, activity or project to discuss.


Relax. You’re just talking. It’s something you do everyday. You know your material or you wouldn’t be there. It helps to become familiar with the place in which you will speak. Arrive early, walk around the speaking area and practice using the microphone and any visual aids. Get to know your audience. Introduce yourself to some of them as they arrive. Ask them about their work, hobbies, science education background, etc. Remember that people want you to succeed. They expect that you will be interesting, stimulating, informative, even entertaining. They don’t want you to fail. Forget the need to be perfect – no speaker is.

 Organizing a Talk

It’s as simple as 1-2-3. The following is an outline followed by many effective speakers:

  1. Get their attention
    Get your audience’s attention. Give them a reason to listen. Establish the theme of your talk. Employ an exciting opening statement, story or meaningful quote. Then tell them what you are going to talk about.
  2. Tell your story
    Giving a speech about research and its importance is really just telling a story about what you and your colleagues do and why it is important. Think of it as a response to the question, “What is it you do, and why do I want to know about it?” You are aware of facts, events, discoveries, possibilities that your audience will benefit from knowing. It may seem like old stuff to you, but it is brand new information to most of your audience. (This is good practice for your scientific presentations!) This main body of your talk is simply relating in an organized fashion the aspects of your work that will be of interest to your listeners. It helps to break your story into separate points (three is suggested). In each segment tell them the facts, their importance, and potential benefit to them.
  3. Reinforce your message
    Revisit your primary theme and then briefly summarize the main points. You want to nail down the core of your message in the minds of your audience. Emphasize again the benefits of your research to them and their community. Try to close with a memorable phrase. “Keep your eyes on the news because the work I have told you about today will translate into a healthier and happier life for you and your family in the years to come”.

To greatly increase your public speaking ability join Toastmasters International ( An hour a week will produce a lifetime of improvement.

Assume that most of your audience have had negative experiences with an addicted person. ´ Begin and end your talk with a memorable statement.

Helpful Hints

  • Make eye contact to establish a relationship with your audience.
  • Include personal experiences.
  • Thank your sponsors and the audience.
  • Don’t read a speech unless you absolutely must. It is better to speak from an outline.
  • Don’t tell the audience that you’re nervous. They know you are because they have been there.
  • Don’t eat or drink too much before a talk. It can reduce alertness and make you sleepy.

Next Page: Print Media