√ Make it highly interactive. A Cafe is not a lecture! Make your presentation a conversation.
√ Watch your pacing. Pause frequently to allow them to mentally catch up with you.
√ Be lively and animated... like you just love your subject!
√ Meet them where they are. You will need to verbally paint very simple mental pictures for them.
√ Tell a story. Story-telling will engage them emotionally and mentally. Weave in your own story!
√ Keep it light. If you can include jokes, cartoons, funny stories, that is always engaging.
√ Keep it simple. Avoid technical words and jargon. If you can say it more simply, do.
√ Keep it focused. Organize your presentation around a very few simple take-home messages.
√ Take care with graphics. Keep slides simple, colorful, jargon-free, and few.
√ Make it personal. Convey the challenges, delights, and passions of your own life in science.
Follow these guidelines and you will have a Teen Café that will be memorable for both then teens and you!
Our purpose in the Café program is to broaden the horizons of teens through exposure to science that is relevant to their lives and to give them a new perspective on science and scientists. The program gives teens a real-world view of science that they don’t get in the classroom. Here is some guidance on how to connect with the teens and effectively communicate your science to them.
Your presentation will need to be entirely different from the kind of one-way presentation you are used to giving at a professional society meeting; rather, it will be a conversation.
Interactivity—two-way verbal communication, supported by a few key graphics—is of the essence.
To paint a picture of a concept in the mind of each audience member, put yourself into the mind of the teen who knows little about your topic and imagine how he or she is processing your words into mental images. Feedback along the way gives you clues how to adjust your delivery. Accomplish this by pausing occasionally with a provocative statement or a question that will promote discussion.
Increase interactivity by bringing a mental challenge or “hands-on” activity of some kind. This could take a lot of different forms, for example, handing around some objects, letting them participate in a demonstration, giving them a trivia quiz, or getting them on their feet and choreographing some simple concept. Teens like to do stuff. If you have an idea, but are not quite sure how to implement it, talk to us, and we can help you.
Tell a story and teens will listen. Start by arousing their interest with a question, problem, or discrepant event that emotionally and mentally engages them. Tell the story of the science in such a way as to provide them with the information or experience to answer the question, have more insight into solutions for the problem, or explain the discrepant event.
Keep it simple. Avoid technical words and jargon. If you can say it more simply, do. If you must use an equation, it has to be basic algebra.
Take care with graphics. Keep slides simple, colorful, jargon-free, and few. They must create mental images of key concepts. Take time to fully explain any diagrams, graphs, or images; assume the teens have never seen anything like them. Keep words to a minimum; a picture is worth a thousand words! Including funny cartoons or other forms of humor is always good.
Make it personal! Try and include a slide showing yourself or your colleagues having fun doing science. The teens will be very interested in you personally.
Your dry run will help you calibrate the level of the presentation for the teen audience and focus your graphics on the essential take-away concepts. Also, scientists are often somewhat intimidated by this unfamiliar audience; the dry run always helps to break that ice.