Improving communication skills and finding phrases that work


Aileen remembers taking part in I’m a Scientist when at school. Now a PhD student in Data, Risk and Environmental Analytical Methods, Aileen participated as a scientist in the Climate Zone.

Aileen had had experience communicating her work to visitors at her research institute and at one off events like Big Bang Fair. However, she believes taking part helped her develop short ‘quick-fire’ explanations of her research.


If you suddenly clam up, it’s a lot easier to get past that if you’re behind a screen. It was a good format to practise and prepare for the unexpected.

Impressing a tough crowd
The need to regularly get across information ‘succinctly’ in live chats particularly helped Aileen develop her shorter explanations. She felt that because students could easily switch their interest to someone else, without worrying about her feelings, she was forced to explain herself as clearly and quickly as possible.

“Because you’re not in person, there’s not that level of politeness. It’s just ‘I’m not interested any more, bye, I’m going to speak to someone else’… I kind of think it makes you have to get better.”

Becoming comfortable with the unexpected
The computer-based, text only nature of the activity also meant she was comfortable taking a moment to compose answers to unexpected questions.

“It’s preparing you for the unexpected… you’re behind the screen so if you suddenly have 30 seconds when you clam up, it’s a lot easier. Rather than, ‘oh god there’s a major investor stood in front of me and I really need to answer them now’.”

Aileen says her elevator pitch has since helped her in professional contexts. “In terms of turning up to conferences and that kind of thing, rather than going in to the whole ‘I do this this and this and I’m a PhD student…’ being able to explain what I do in a very short speech is helpful.”

To take part in a future I’m a Scientist event, apply now at, or contact for more information.

Posted on June 25, 2019 by modemily in News, Scientists. Tagged . Comments Off on Improving communication skills and finding phrases that work