Thursday, July 21, 2011

Can you do a better job working with scientists and experts?

If you're frustrated by your work helping experts and scientists reach non-technical audiences, it might be time to step back and assess whether you could be doing a better job at it. Telltale signs might be right in your sights.

In some cases, you'll set up a media interview, an appointment with a donor, a training session--only to have it canceled or mysteriously missed. Your requests to engage with external audiences might be met with more roadblocks and pushback over time, or kept to smaller and smaller windows. Or those interviews, meetings and appointments will happen--but may as well not have happened, since the exchange of information is too technical to be clear. Perhaps you sense trouble and attempt to coach the expert in communicating with non-technical audiences, or the expert assures you she's had plenty of previous training--but the problems still occur. And clearest of all the signals: The expert you can never reach, or the one who blows up his training session in some way.

I've trained thousands of experts, scientists, engineers and policy wonks in every academic discipline, and to me, those tea leaves spell trouble for communicators and others trying to bridge the gap between smart folks and the public audiences interested in their work. They signal experts who are hiding from contact with non-experts or media, those who think your requests are taking up too much of their time (perhaps because they don't know how to manage them), and those who don't understand how to shift their communication style when speaking to reporters, public audiences, donors and policymakers. Many of them are just afraid to fail--after all, they're supposed to be experts, right?

The good news: You can improve your success in working with experts in communications situations, in my new workshop, Be an Expert on Working with Experts. Slated for Wednesday, August 24 in Washington, DC, the workshop will cover:
  • How to anticipate your experts' default communications style, how to help them see it, and how to show them what public and media audiences want instead;
  • Why they don't need to "dumb down" their information to communicate clearly (and how to handle other common objections they raise);
  • How to assess your experts' skills and training needs, to help you approach coaching in savvy ways;
  • Handling hands-on training, giving feedback to smart people, pushback and Q-and-A when you're training experts. Find out what they don't know--but won't tell you--and how to fix that.
The workshop is a great value, and ideal for teams of communicators--a team signed up within the first hour. You'll get continental breakfast and lunch, plus resources you can refer to after the training. Register by August 5 at $300 per person, a $50 discount from the $350 registration fee. It's a small-group setting that will let you practice, ask questions and focus on the particular challenges you're facing with the experts you work with. Sign up today!

Can't make it on the 24th? Use the RSVP function to let me know you can't make it, but want to know about future sessions. I can bring this workshop to your workplace or your city, so let me know your interest, and share this, please, with colleagues and friends.

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