AwarenessAwareness serves both as a measure of the purpose and efficacy of your communication efforts. The level of awareness you want your audience to reach after your communication efforts helps you define the purpose. On the other hand, the level of awareness your audience reaches after the interaction defines the result of your communication efforts. For e.g. While talking to a fifth-grader about climate change, you want the kid to learn about ways to protect the environment in their home. But at the same time, you do not want them to recite the El Nino effect and its causes. So, you define your communication limits and methods for your audience, a fifth-grader. Ultimately, you need to decide what you want from your audience. You want the audiences to be aware of you? Your work? An aspect of science? Anything else? Or all of it? Once you decide upon the outcome you want, you can accordingly determine the purpose of your communique.
EnjoymentWhenever you enjoy something, you feel happy, positive, and engaged. Similarly, science communication that evokes enjoyment helps engage audiences and promote scientific understanding. However, the enjoyment can be superficial or deeper. Deeper levels of enjoyment come from discovering, presenting, resolving, or exploring scientific matters. For e.g, getting hands-on with science through a citizen science project can help the audiences to feel closer to science and help evoke deeper levels of enjoyment.
InterestScience communication need not always turn into an educational class. Therefore, now is the time we replace education with an array of possible responses. Among these retaining interest in science remains essential. Interest rears curiosity to know and do more about things and get involved. So, by utilizing innovative and exciting communication activities, one can generate appropriate interest in science. As James Bower explains:
Your audience will, without a doubt, want to learn something new and exciting that makes them see the world, at least a little, differently. I always advise to stick to “inspiring”, rather than “explaining” as it helps steer the tone well away from “patronizing”. Inspiring people keeps us on the same level, an important factor for any age group.
And a great way to inspire is to appeal to the senses. If you can create a demo, bring in a piece of your lab or show a video of something original, then it helps generate a lived experience that will make more of an impact than words alone. When working on a written piece, you can achieve this by prioritizing action verbs, like “to drive”, “to throw” or “to climb”.
OpinionOpinions can be understood as a two-way sword. You need to understand your target audience’s pre-existing notions and opinions before trying to form new ones or restructuring old ones. Although opinions arise from personal beliefs and living conditions, three interesting scenarios where opinions may change are:
- When the person feels that their existing understanding or knowledge about something is challenged
- Upon experiencing relevant and outstanding challenges appealing to existing opinions
- Alternative opinion appears more useful, trustworthy and appears to enhance one’s influence or control over the situation
UnderstandingUnderstanding remains the most basic and essential aspect of generating all the other responses. Concerning science communication, helping the audience understand the scientific content remains important. As a science communicator, it can help achieve different short and long-term goals.
The ToolsThus, the AEIOU response also helps build a tool kit for science communicators, with skills, media, activities, and dialogue as the essential tools. A science communicator can use these tools to invoke AEIOU responses of communication.
Tool #1: SkillsKnowing and practicing suitable skills resolve half the battle. Whether through written, oral, or visual medium, few necessary skills always come in handy for communicating with the target audience.
- Identifying and understanding the target audience
- Using appropriate language
- Determining the purpose and outcome of communication
- Considering the audience’s levels of prior knowledge
- Separating essential facts from non-essentials
- Considering the social, political, and cultural context of scientific information
- Using suitable style elements
- Encourage a two-way dialogue with the audience
Tool #2: Media and activitiesDifferent people have different lifestyles, socio-economic conditions, and personalities. These factors determine how different people take up information from different media and activities. E.g., you may communicate with a high school student using a youtube video, but the same does not necessarily work while talking to a policymaker. Even the science activities around a scientific topic need to be designed differently as per the different age groups. The youtube show ‘5 levels’ from Wired does that perfectly. Further, the nature of activities also depends on the settings in which communication takes place, whether formal or informal. Accordingly, different types of formal settings include:
- Educational institutions such as schools, colleges, and universities.
- Training programs and accredited courses
- Professional or academic conferences, seminars, and presentations
- Science museums and science centers
- Film, radio, television, or print coverage
- Digital forums on the internet
- Clubs, societies, or groups
- Theater and shows
- Events and festivals
- Magazine or books
Tool #3: DialogueScience communication does not work well as a one-sided talk. Instead, it demands a two-way dialogue with the target audience. In a two-way dialogue, the communicator gets a chance to combine scientific knowledge with the public’s local knowledge and concerns. After all, communicating science in its true essence means to resolve issues and improve the world we live in. Hence, every science practitioner becomes a communicator by default when they engage in talks with the public, peers, and mediators. So, to strike a fruitful dialogue:
- Always pay attention to the context and conditions of the audience and surroundings.
- Avoid using jargon and complicated graphs, data.
- Keep the dialogue interactive and try to use one or the other style elements.
- Try to walk the path of storytelling.