Helping the Biodesign Institute explain why their research will make a better future


The Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University houses dedicated researchers who are engineering biology into better technology. Ambitious projects seek to develop medicines to universally defeat “resistant” bacteria and viruses alongside efforts to use lessons from green plants to develop superior solar cells. Such work requires experts from disparate academic units to encounter each other more frequently than ever before. Revolutionizing the world happens through conversations daily in the lab, weekly in crafting funding proposals, and over months and years developing new commercial products.

A newer source of funding for biomedical engineering writ large is philanthropic investors from the “tech” world, often associated with Silicon Valley but also found in other geographies. These funders are vitally interested in why researchers are committed to their work. However many academics have little to no experience speaking with non-peers and typically revert to technical presentations on how they will proceed, presuming the “why” is obvious.

Therefore the Biodesign Institute hired DJG Communications LLC to have researchers workshop short talks to better show why their work compels the support necessary to succeed. In particular, the Biodesign Institute wants researchers who excel at speaking with the general public and also have a sense of how to hook into the interests of philanthropists in Arizona and beyond.

Over the course of two days, participants delivered a 3 minute talk 4 times. Facilitator Darcy J. Gentleman intermingled tips on word choice, narrative structure, slide design, and emotional hooks with open revision periods and talk practice sessions. The workshop was offered twice in one week in January 2018 to accommodate busy schedules.

The Biodesign Institute leaders were so impressed with the improvement of the researchers’ presentations that several were invited to speak at a campus-wide open doors event. Many also presented in a series of TED-style talks held in restaurants around the greater Phoenix area.

Participant testimonials:

DJG Communications LLC runs a professional and effective service: there is something new to learn from having someone else critique a talk. Darcy has a science background so this helps a lot in transitioning the communication from a technical frame to non-technical audiences. Also, this workshop enabled me to meet people in my research institute that I had not met before. DJG Communications LLC created a forum not only for active learning about communication, but one in which I met other researchers.

Arvind Varsani, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Biodesign Institute, Arizona State University

Darcy is a very perceptive coach. He is able to see weaknesses and suggest doable ways to overcome flaws while accentuating the speaker’s story. During the 2-day workshop I participated in, I liked having the opportunity to continually improve my presentation while also seeing how others could improve their own talks. If one has a story to tell, then DJG Communications LLC can help make that story come alive.

Bruce E. Rittmann, Ph.D.
Center Director and Professor, Biodesign Swette Center for Environmental Biotechnology, Arizona State University

Do you work at a research center that could use some practice in communicating to outside audiences? Or even just improve internal communications between interdisciplinary teams? Contact me today at DJG@darcygentleman.com to schedule a workshop tailored to helping STEM researchers like you better explain why your work will deliver a better future.

Image credit: National Academy of Sciences
©2018, DJG Communications LLC

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