Media training

The ARC Centres of Excellence for Climate Extremes (CLEX) and Convergent Bio-nano Science & Technology (CBNS) held an all day media training workshop today.

The workshop consisted of a presentation on effective communication from Alvin in the morning. Then, just after lunch, we did practice interviews in front of a camera and other participants. The aim of this practice interview was to see if participants can deliver up to three key points, and communicate based on the Alvin’s principals. After this round Ann gave a presentation on non-verbal forms of communication such as gestures, body language and facial expressions and then we continued with the mock interviews also taking non-verbal communication cues into account. Below are some notes I took during the training that may be useful to others.

Alvin’s presentation

Why communicate?

  • to create change
    • selfish change - “I need a promotion”
    • change society/world

Who do you want to be?

  • Assume a personality
  • Who do you want to influence?
  • think constantly about the audience
    • reliable, trusted, clear, concise, helpful, confident, friendly, accurate, dispassionate, personable?

Your research narrative:

  • avoid boredom
    • and, and, and, and,
  • avoid confusion
    • Despite, However, yet
    • dont give qualifications first
  • use and, but, therefore

Who reads nespapers?

  • written to be understood by 13 year olds

Why should the audience care?

  • study your intended audience
  • emotions matter!
  • not only why do we care? but also why do we feel?
  • communicate with emotion


  • do not dumb down your research. Translate!
  • speak your audience’s language
  • the pub test
    • how would you tell your friends and family?

Use the inverted pyramid structure

  • Have the good stuff at the top

The power of 3

  • prepare 2 or 3 key points in priority order
  • A snappy quote
    • factoid or quote but must be memorable
  • A word image for complex ideas

Control the interview

  • Learn to say no. You can’t know everything.
  • Reframe poorly asked questions.
  • come back to your three points.
    • repetition works!
  • You don’t have to fill the space with sound.
    • hearing people think (hearing the silence) is good.
    • vary your voice, allow yourself to pause
  • Tough question? Think out loud.
    • “That’s a really good question. Here’s why…”

Opportunistic media:

  • For experts: Scan the news/forecasts every day. Prepare in advance

Some words of advice from Alvin throughout the day

  • Think about where the interview could go that you don’t want it to go.

  • If you get stumped repeat the question back to them…

Preparation for mock interview

In preparation for the mock interview Alvin asked us to prepare an introduction using the “and, but, therefore” structure, and up to three key points (or take home messages) that you would like your audience to take away from the interview.

“and but threrefore” introduction
Climate change is increasing global temperature and since warmer air holds more moisture, we expect rainfall to increase around the globe. But we still do not know how it has changed in the past let alone how it’ll change in the future. So my reasearch analyses every aspect of rainfall and comprehensively answers how it is changing across the globe.

Three key points

  • first point: why should people care?

Rain affects our entire economy, society and biosphere. Cyclone Yasi for example affected crop production; the price of bananas went up by 300% after the event, it caused property damage that not only affected homeowners in the area but the resulting increase in insurance costs affected all of australia, and it goes without saying that such extreme events can cause catastrophic loss to biodiversity.

  • second point: My main result from a recently accepted paper.

We found that although there are regions that receive more or less days of rainfall now compared to the past resulting in variable changes in total rainfall, when it comes to the amount of rainfall when it rains, it rains more across Australia. This is true for all intensities of rainfall, from light to extreme.

  • third point: Since, as per Alvin’s advice, every interview must have an intention of a change behind it, I wanted to focus my last point on an appeal to increase meteorological data sharing between countries.

Similar to the Australian study, we expect rainfall to increase globally but we currently do not have enough data to know this for sure because countries do not share meteorological data. This lack of global precipitation data limits our ability to conduct a global rainfall analysis.

  • This last key point led to my “snappy” quote:

Climate change is a global phenonmenon but the solution needs global communication

Anne’s presentation on non-verbal communication

Three forms of non-verbal communication:

  • Hand gestures
  • facial expressions
  • Body language

Some things to note:

  • Crossing hands makes you look defensive
  • Interlocking also has the same effect
  • Stand straight, shoulders back
  • No manspreading!
  • Sit up straight. Crossing legs makes you slouch
  • Just keep feet together when sitting and hands resting on your lap
  • With a camera, stare around the lens not directly at it
  • Paralinguistics: intonations are important. Don’t say every sentence with inflexions at the end.
    • In an interview your voice often monotones, so one trick is start high and work your way down to the end of the sentence.
  • Fillers: Um, you know?, like, yeah so…
    • to get rid of these work with a partner for a few days
    • make them clap or call you out everytime you use these filler words
  • Record (video) your interview and play it first without sound so you pick up on your non-verbal communication ticks and then play it again with sound
  • Acting classses work really well. Highly recommended.

Some handouts:



Use the following template to keep a track of your Non-verbal communication while practicing for an interview


Finally, here are some palmcards with common non-verbal communication related problems and strategies to resolve them.

Special thanks to all the participants and organisors, especially Alvin and Anne for running this workshop!

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