As part of the FameLab competition, judges were always looking for somebody who could shine in content, clarity and charisma. These are all important factors to consider in any science talk you are putting together. 


The content of the presentation must be scientifically accurate. If the topic chosen has controversy or uncertainty around it, then the talk must acknowledge the opposing views. The scientific topic presented should be well chosen to suit the audience.


Clarity is critical for effective science communication. The structure of the presentation must enable the audience and judges to easily follow the talk and they should be left with a full understanding of the scientific concept chosen.


The audience and judges should be left inspired and enthused about science. The best talks are by a charismatic presenter who makes the science easy to listen to, entertaining and exciting. They should not only be able to communicate the science but share their passion for it and leave the audience wanting to learn more.

Judges' top 10 tips

These tips were created for the FameLab competition but are useful more broadly for communicating science to public audiences. 

  1. Think about the beginning and the end - Hook us at the start, and then give us a satisfying ending that leaves us feeling we’ve had a complete journey (it’s nice if it brings the beginning back in some way, but that’s not the only way to end).
  2. Don’t try to copy somebody else’s style - Go with what works for you.
  3. Make sure there’s enough science in there - We can learn a lot in three minutes if you tell it well.
  4. Tell us something you’re excited about… - ...your enthusiasm will shine through.
  5. Let go of the PowerPoint safety net - Using virtual backgrounds for slides or special effect takes away from your performance.  Printing your slides onto a t-shirt or, worse, laminated bits of paper reduces you from 3 to 2 dimensions.
  6. Be in the moment - Acknowledging what’s happening right here, right now (even if it’s something going wrong!) keeps us engaged – and shows you’re confident enough to cope.
  7. Don’t overdo your introduction - You need to set a scene, give us a moment to grasp who you are and lead into your subject, sure. But you need to do all of that quickly! You haven't really started until the introduction is behind you – keep it punchy.
  8. Know where you’re going - However much you've slaved over the individual words of your performance, make sure you know the waymarks too: the bullet-points that keep you on track. There are probably around five of them, and the last one will usually be your last line. If that's fixed in your mind then no matter how many of your carefully-honed lines fall apart, you still know how you're going to finish. So that's one less distraction.
  9. “What will they talk about later?” - What's your piece about? You need to be able to answer that in, say, ten words. Those words need to work when prefixed with "Did you know…" or "I heard this amazing thing today…". Give people memorable nuggets they can use as social currency, it's the best way of spreading ideas around.
  10. Think theatrically - The impact of a prop can be changed by how it's introduced - is it carried on, picked up, or revealed? Similarly, you can trail your finale, tease it, or reveal it from an unexpected direction. There's no right or wrong here, you have to choose what best suits you and your story. But make sure you choose rather than just letting it happen.

Presenting virtually? Consider these practical tips as well!

  1. Obtain a good quality web camera if you are using a desktop. For laptops, if your computer is less than 3 years old, the built-in camera (if it has one) should be adequate. 
  2. Obtain a computer headset. This will greatly reduce the chance of feedback and improve your voice quality for those who are communicating with you on the other side. Headsets that connect via USB are the best choice. 
  3. When recording, please allow space at the beginning and end of your piece to help with the editing process (press record and silently count to 3 before you start and at the end, a silent count to 3 before you stop recording).
  4. When possible, connect to the Internet with a physical cable connection, not just Wi-Fi. This will give you much greater speed and service. 
  5. A laptop or desktop is preferred over a Smartphone or tablet. 
  6. Don’t be outside. Wind and background noise makes your device’s microphone adjust and your voice may sound muffled. 
  7. Don’t have several programmes running during the event. Close all unnecessary applications during your call so all processing power can be used to maximize the quality of your session. 
  8. Pay attention to your background. Too much light behind you and you appear to be only a dark figure. Also, don’t have anything behind you that may be distracting to those who are on the other side. Also ensure there is no background noise (turn off noisy appliances)
  9. To counteract back lighting, make sure you have a good source of light in front of you and behind the camera that you are using with your computer. 
  10. If using a phone to record use it in "landscape" orientation (not portrait). 
  11. Try and record in a space with carpet / soft furnishings / curtains - this helps reduce sound "echo".
  12. Pay attention to your attire. Don’t wear stripes or anything too bright. Solid colours are best.
  13. Make sure at least your head/upper torso and any props you're using are visible on screen.

Would you like to develop your science communication skills? Request a copy of our Science Communication Toolkit: Telling the Story of Science!