Fancy standing on soapbox and talking about your science to passers-by? Oh that sounds ace, I’ll apply for that. I got a place – fantastic! Now I have to *actually* do it and it’s only 3 weeks away. Arrgghhh. It is often said the worst thing about doing an event is the uncertainty beforehand that manifests as PANIC! I am nervous but know when I get going I’ll be OK. No really, I’ll be OK. Cue the soapbox science training.
The soapbox expert
The training came at just the right time when the niggling questions were starting to kick in. How on earth was I going to do this? How do I keep people interested? What if no one stops to listen? Was it all going to be an epic fail? No said Soapbox alumna Prof Kate Jones aka Bat Woman. People will stop. They will ask questions. They will be interested. It is a bit distracting when they keep wandering off but it’s not a lecture. Phew, that’s made me feel better.
The celebrity expert
It’s Robin Ince! He was there in person and I have a picture to prove it. What a great guy with an abundance of great tips. I’m now inspired and thinking about how I can create sticky images – something you can go away with to jog your memory of the science that ‘soil woman’ was talking about. Robin also said a passion for the subject will always win over the audience. OK I can do that. I heart soil*.
There’s some REALLY cool science being done by these soapbox ladies. I learned about planets bending space, drug delivery caterpillars and using wee to detect cancer (sorry, these were my sticky images). And thanks for the really useful feedback on my prop proposals! We bonded by sharing our soapbox ideas, chatting about science and academia in general and lamenting over the general election (aided by couple of glasses of wine). It was very supportive and great to meet everyone.
The sci-comm guru
What will the crowd do? People will stand for a bit listening to you on the soapbox (between 9 seconds and 45 minutes, but probably nearer 3 minutes). Then they’ll wander off. It’s not personal, they do actually have to go somewhere or they just want to listen to the other soapboxer that’s shouting over there. Things to remember: have a strong intro, build a concept and make it topical, relevant and personal. And look into their eyes. Thanks Aoife Glass (@Silverstrange) I will now try and implement.
Seirian Sumner and Nathalie Pettorelli founded Soapbox Science 5 years ago. There are two central philosophies. The first is to promote women in science – yes we exist and want to be role models for all the budding scientists out there. The second is to bring science to places where you wouldn’t necessarily expect to encounter it. Like by the river, on the beach or at an art gallery. A kind of science ambush. BOO!
Now I’m fired up and ready to go – see you on London Southbank on 30 May!
Jack Hannam (@Dirt_Science)