29 May 2018

Webinars for scicomm: Consider me a convert

Posted by Shane Hanlon

By Shane M Hanlon

I came to scicomm much like many folks I know – through a fairly indirect route. I have a PhD in Biology (Ecology) and did a fair amount of outreach to non-science audiences in public and K-12 settings as a grad student. It wasn’t until recently (that’s another post) that I realized that I wanted to/was OK with doing scicomm full time and considering myself a science communicator (or trainer/practitioner/professional – the jury is still out on the exact vernacular we should be using). All this is to say is that I didn’t really receive formal training on how to communicate until later in my career. For example, if someone would’ve told me about a webinar on scicoom, I would’ve: 1) laughed at them because scicomm training wasn’t a thing, and 2) asked what a webinar was.

When I first came to AGU, I ran through the current scicomm training offerings of the Sharing Science program. There were of course the in-person workshops – our  bread and butter and a big reason why I do what I do. Being able to teach scicomm to a room full of (usually) scientists is one of my favorite things. But I learned that we also offered webinars, a platform that I was much less familiar with. I quickly learned that they’re basically sprint workshops for the masses. And I was resistant.

I thought webinars were basically lectures online, and don’t get me wrong, they can be. But I quickly realized that they can also be, and are, a great tool to share content and engage with audiences who normally wouldn’t be able to participate in person. And they’re easy to customize when it comes to engagement level. We also make sure to leave some time at the end for questions but there’s opportunities to poll, have activities, and really get involved with you audience. Finally, They allow for diverse speakers and participants from all over the globe to take part.

I’m hooked. So far this year we’ve held webinars on scicomm & storytelling and what makes science newsworthy. Be on the lookout for potential webinars on podcasting, plain-language summaries, and more! Check out our archive!

-Shane M Hanlon is a Senior Specialist in AGU’s Sharing Science program.