Five tips for boot camp speakers

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1. Develop your remarks around 3 – 5 key points you want to convey.

  • Decide on these points ahead of time and practice ways to express them concisely and clearly.
  • Reiterate them during your presentation and return to them as opportunities arise during discussion.
  • Back them up with data or studies; you’re uniquely positioned to inject evidence into stories on this topic.
Consider these your “vital takeaways” for journalists to bring back to their newsrooms. If they remember nothing else, what are the 3 – 5 points they absolutely must understand to report on the topic more deeply and accurately?

2. Keep slides and visuals straightforward.

  • Always explain all axes, labels, and colors on a graph or figure before discussing it.
  • Limit standalone text on slides. Instead, offer simple visuals that illustrate or supplement your spoken words.
  • Do not use text font smaller than 16 point in your slides.
Reporters want to listen to, learn from, and engage with you in person. They would rather connect and converse with you during your session than scramble to decipher complicated graphs or speed-read text-heavy slides.

3. Tailor your remarks for an audience of curious, attentive, non-specialty reporters.

  • Share examples of concepts or caveats that reporters often get wrong, or important points they often neglect.
  • Point out newsworthy advances that have been overlooked or are on the horizon.
  • Share story ideas if you have them; reporters are always looking for new angles from which to pursue an issue.
Story ideas worth sharing can include: something surprising or unexpected, a new way of thinking about or solving a longstanding problem, a significant research milestone, or how a scientific advance affects individuals or communities.

4. Keep in mind that all presentations, Q&A, and informal discussions are on the record.

  • This means reporters may record what you say (either by taking notes, or using an audio or video recording device), and may quote you or attribute information to you by name in news stories.
  • Reporters are not obligated to share quotes with you ahead of time for review or approval.
  • We recommend that you do not go ‘off the record’ during the boot camp, as that phrase can mean different things to different reporters. Instead, only share remarks that you’re comfortable being used by reporters.
Reporters come to boot camps primarily to learn and are not generally looking for “gotcha” moments or gaffes. Still, remembering that anything you say may be quoted is a useful best practice whenever you interact with journalists.

5. Remember these DOs and DON’Ts.

☑ DO express when you disagree with the premise of a question. It’s not rude to say “Actually, that’s not quite right. Let me explain…” or “That may be one factor, but the bigger issue is …”

❌ DON’T guess when you don’t know the answer. It’s OK to say: “I’m sorry, that’s outside my area of expertise.” or “I don’t have the answer at my fingertips, can I get back to you on that question?”

☑ DO use analogies, visual examples, and anecdotes to make your knowledge more relatable and memorable.

❌ DON’T use acronyms, abbreviations, or jargon. They can confuse non-experts and obscure your insights.

☑ DO offer to serve as a source for future stories, if you’re willing to stay engaged and build relationships.

Approach this boot camp as an opportunity to share your expertise with a group of colleagues with common goals. Good reporters, like good scientists, are devoted to—and enjoy—uncovering evidence and sharing it with the world!