Workshops for Scientists

Our standard workshop options are listed below. Due to the customized nature of our workshops, prices may vary. Once we determine your needs, we will send you a workshop proposal outlining workshop details and costs.

Program

Time Needed

Typical # Participants

Distilling Your Message
(Interactive Plenary)
1-2 hours
Unlimited
Improvisation
(Session)
2-3 hours
Groups of 20
Workshops
1-3 days
Groups of 16 or 32
Alda-Kavli Leadership Program
2-3 days
Two tracks with 16 or 32 each

TestimonialsWorkshop Descriptions and Sample Agendas

Please browse our workshop selections below. Click on any of the options to expand a text description or sample agenda. For 1-3 day programs, you may also download and print a PDF.

Distilling Your Message (Interactive Plenary)


This interactive session introduces participants to general principles in how to craft short, clear, conversational statements, intelligible to non-scientists, about what you do and why it matters. The session consists of an interactive presentation and discussion on interpreting technical material using examples and analogies to illuminate unfamiliar concepts to your audience. The plenary will address problems and solutions in public interactions as well as peer-to- peer communication.  Participants will practice clarity in speaking to non-scientists about their work and may be actively engaged in improvisation exercises or explaining scientific material to lay people.

Space and Technical Requirements: The plenary requires a projector, laptop with internet connection and sound for video, lavalier microphone, technical support for presentation set-up, wireless clicker and flip chart or whiteboard. For a large audience, hand held microphones to pass around are also required.

Improvisation (Session)


3- hour Improvisation for Scientists Session (groups of 20 per instructor)

Improvisation for Scientists is a workshop pioneered by science advocate, Alan Alda. Participants will take part in improvisational theater exercises aimed at helping them connect more directly and spontaneously with different audiences. This is not about turning scientists into actors or comedians, but about helping the participant recognize and engage with the audience on a level where the message of the scientist can land effectively with the listener. These games require participants to pay close, dynamic attention to others and emphasize the two-way nature of communication: What is received counts more than what is said. Through the course of training, participants will investigate body language, listen with more awareness, and respond with greater sensitivity.

Space and Technical Requirements: Improvisation requires a large (minimum 30’ x 30’) open space with movable chairs. The workshop can be noisy, which should be considered when booking space. 

One Day Workshop


Download a printable PDF

This workshop can accommodate 16 or 32 participants, with 3 or 6 instructors, respectively.

8:00 – 8:30am: Breakfast and Check-in

8:30 – 10:00am: Interactive Opening Plenary, unlimited participants

This interactive session introduces participants to general principles in how to craft short, clear, conversational statements, intelligible to non-scientists, about what you do and why it matters. The session consists of an interactive presentation and discussion on interpreting technical material using examples and analogies to illuminate unfamiliar concepts to your audience. The plenary will address problems and solutions in public interactions as well as peer-to-peer communication.  Participants will practice clarity in speaking to non-scientists about their work and may be actively engaged in improvisation exercises or explaining scientific material to lay people.

Space and Technical Requirements: The plenary requires a projector, laptop with internet connection and sound for video, lavalier microphone, technical support for presentation set-up, wireless clicker and flip chart or whiteboard. For a large audience, hand held microphones to pass around are also required.

10:00am – 1:00pm: Improvisation for Scientists, groups of 16

Improvisation for Scientists is a workshop pioneered by science advocate, Alan Alda.  Participants will take part in improvisational theater exercises aimed at helping them connect more directly and spontaneously with different audiences.  This is not about turning scientists into actors or comedians, but about helping the participant recognize and engage with the audience on a level where the message of the scientist can land effectively with the listener.  These games require participants to pay close, dynamic attention to others and emphasize the two-way nature of communication:  What is received counts more than what is said.  Through the course of training, participants will investigate body language, listen with more awareness, and respond with greater sensitivity.

Space and Technical Requirements: Improvisation requires a large (minimum 30’ x 30’) open space with movable chairs. The workshop can be noisy, which should be considered when booking space.   

1:00 – 2:00pm: Lunch

2:00 – 5:30pm:  Distilling Your Message

1-hour introductory plenary & 2.5-hour breakout sessions, groups of 8

The combination of an interactive plenary and small group break out sessions helps participants learn to speak clearly and vividly about their work and why it matters, in terms non-scientists can understand. Participants will practice finding common ground, speaking at different levels of complexity for different audiences, storytelling, and answering questions about their work.  The plenary will address problems and solutions in public interactions as well as peer-to-peer communication.

Space and Technical Requirements: The plenary requires a projector, laptop with internet connection and sound for video, lavalier microphone, technical support for presentation set-up, wireless clicker and flip chart or whiteboard. Breakout sessions should take place in a small conference or classroom, with chairs around a table or in a circle.   

5:30 – 6:00pm: Reflecting on Our Experiences

What approaches worked better? What choices were productive? Has your approach to communicating changed and, if so, how?  What next steps would be useful? Includes evaluation survey.

Two Day Workshop


Download a printable PDF

This workshop can accommodate 16 or 32 participants, with 3 or 6 instructors, respectively.

Day 1: The Fundamentals

8:00 – 8:30 am: Breakfast and Check-in

8:30 – 10:00am: Opening Plenary, unlimited participants

This interactive session introduces participants to general principles in how to craft short, clear, conversational statements, intelligible to non-scientists, about what you do and why it matters. The session consists of an interactive presentation and discussion on interpreting technical material using examples and analogies to illuminate unfamiliar concepts to your audience. The plenary will address problems and solutions in public interactions as well as peer-to-peer communication.  Participants will practice clarity in speaking to non-scientists about their work and may be actively engaged in improvisation exercises or explaining scientific material to lay people.

Space and Technical Requirements: The plenary requires a projector, laptop with internet connection and sound for video, lavalier microphone, technical support for presentation set-up, wireless clicker and flip chart or whiteboard. For a large audience, hand held microphones to pass around are also required.

10:00am – 1:00pm: Improvisation for Scientists, groups of 16

Improvisation for Scientists is a workshop pioneered by science advocate, Alan Alda. Participants will take part in improvisational theater exercises aimed at helping them connect more directly and spontaneously with different audiences.  This is not about turning scientists into actors or comedians, but about helping the participant recognize and engage with the audience on a level where the message of the scientist can land effectively with the listener.  These games require participants to pay close, dynamic attention to others and emphasize the two-way nature of communication:  What is received counts more than what is said.  Through the course of training, participants will investigate body language, listen with more awareness, and respond with greater sensitivity.

Space and Technical Requirements: Improvisation requires a large (minimum 30’ x 30’) open space with movable chairs. The workshop can be noisy, which should be considered when booking space.   

1:00 – 2:00pm: Lunch

2:00 – 5:30pm: Distilling Your Message, groups of 8

1-hour introductory plenary & 2.5-hour breakout session

The combination of an interactive plenary and small group break out sessions helps participants learn to speak clearly and vividly about their work and why it matters, in terms non-scientists can understand. Participants will practice finding common ground, speaking at different levels of complexity for different audiences, storytelling, and answering questions about their work.  The plenary will address problems and solutions in public interactions as well as peer-to-peer communication.

Space and Technical Requirements: The plenary requires a projector, laptop with internet connection and sound for video, lavalier microphone, technical support for presentation set-up, wireless clicker and flip chart or whiteboard. Breakout sessions should take place in a small conference or classroom, with chairs around a table or in a circle.   



Day 2: Applying Skills

On Day 1, we worked on connecting with audiences and distilling messages.  On Day 2, we will apply the lessons of Improvisation and Distilling in more challenging settings. After a warm-up, half the group will participate in Media Interview Skills, while the other half will participate in Improvisation II.  After lunch, the groups will switch, so each participant will take both workshop sessions. The day will end with an evaluation session.

9:00 – 10:00am: Warm-up using improvisation and media interview tips

10:00am -1:00pm: First Workshop Session, participants divided in half

Media Interview Skills, half the participants, in groups of 8

We’ll practice doing a television interview, including using Improvisation skills to prepare and answering questions clearly, crisply, and very briefly. This is a challenging form of Distilling Your Message. The interviews will be recorded on video and participants will be able to download their interview later and use it as they wish.  

Space and Technical Requirements: You will need 1 room per group of 8 that is relatively quiet.  You will also need 1 video camera and operator per group of 8. Footing is to be recorded onto standard SD cards for each participant to keep.

Improvisation for Scientists II – Engaging Varied Audiences, groups of 8 or 16

Participants will develop further skills of connection, empathy and relationship introduced in Improvisation and Distilling Your Message.  The session will include games, exercises and role-playing scenarios with difficult audiences.  

Space and Technical Requirements: One large (minimum 30’ x 30’) open spaces with movable chairs.  The workshop can be noisy, which should be considered when booking space.   

1:00 – 2:00pm: Lunch

2:00 – 5:00pm: Second Workshop Session (same components as in the morning, groups switch)

5:00 – 5:30pm: Reflecting on Our Experiences

What approaches worked better? What choices were productive? Has your approach to communicating changed and, if so, how?  What next steps would be useful? Includes evaluation survey.

Three Day Workshop


Download a printable PDF

This workshop can accommodate 16 or 32 participants, with 3 or 6 instructors, respectively.

Day 1: The Fundamentals

8:00 – 8:30am: Breakfast and Check-In

8:30 – 10:00am: Opening Plenary, unlimited participants

This interactive session introduces participants to general principles in how to craft short, clear, conversational statements, intelligible to non-scientists, about what you do and why it matters. The session consists of an interactive presentation and discussion on interpreting technical material using examples and analogies to illuminate unfamiliar concepts to your audience. The plenary will address problems and solutions in public interactions as well as peer-to-peer communication.  Participants will practice clarity in speaking to non-scientists about their work and may be actively engaged in improvisation exercises or explaining scientific material to lay people.

Space and Technical Requirements: The plenary requires a projector, laptop with internet connection and sound for video, lavalier microphone, technical support for presentation set-up, wireless clicker and flip chart or whiteboard. For a large audience, hand held microphones to pass around are also required.

10:00am – 1:00pm: Improvisation for Scientists, groups of 16

Improvisation for Scientists is a workshop pioneered by science advocate, Alan Alda. Participants will take part in improvisational theater exercises aimed at helping them connect more directly and spontaneously with different audiences.  This is not about turning scientists into actors or comedians, but about helping the participant recognize and engage with the audience on a level where the message of the scientist can land effectively with the listener.  These games require participants to pay close, dynamic attention to others and emphasize the two-way nature of communication:  What is received counts more than what is said.  Through the course of training, participants will investigate body language, listen with more awareness, and respond with greater sensitivity.

Improvisation requires a large (minimum 30’ x 30’) open space with movable chairs. The workshop can be noisy, which should be considered when booking space.   

1:00 – 2:00pm: Lunch

2:00 – 5:30pm: Distilling Your Message, groups of 8

1-hour introductory plenary & 2.5-hour breakout session

The combination of an interactive plenary and small group break out sessions helps participants learn to speak clearly and vividly about their work and why it matters, in terms non-scientists can understand. Participants will practice finding common ground, speaking at different levels of complexity for different audiences, storytelling, and answering questions about their work.  The plenary will address problems and solutions in public interactions as well as peer-to-peer communication.

Space and Technical Requirements:The plenary requires a projector, laptop with internet connection and sound for video, lavalier microphone, technical support for presentation set-up, wireless clicker and flip chart or whiteboard. Breakout sessions should take place in a small conference or classroom, with chairs around a table or in a circle.   



Day 2: Applying Skills

On Day 1, we worked on connecting with audiences and distilling messages.  On Day 2, we will apply the lessons of Improvisation and Distilling in more challenging settings. After a warm-up, half the group will participate in Media Interview Skills, while the other half will participate in Improvisation II.  After lunch, the groups will switch, so each participant will take both workshop sessions.

9:00 – 10:00am: Warm-up using improvisation and media interview tips

10:00am – 1:00pm: First Workshop Session, participants divided in half

Media Interview Skills, half the participants in groups of 8

We’ll practice doing a television interview, including using Improvisation skills to prepare and answering questions clearly, crisply, and very briefly. This is a challenging form of Distilling Your Message. The interviews will be recorded on video and participants will be able to download their interview later and use it as they wish.  

Space and Technical Requirements: You will need 1 room per group of 8 that is relatively quiet. You will also need to provide 1 video camera and operator per group of 8. Footage is to be recorded onto standard SD cards for each participant to keep.

Improvisation for Scientists II – Engaging Varied Audiences, groups of 8 or 16

Participants will develop further skills of connection, empathy and relationship introduced in Improvisation and Distilling Your Message.  The session will include games, exercises and role- playing scenarios with difficult audiences.  

Space and Technical Requirements: One large (minimum 30’ x 30’) open spaces with movable chairs.  The workshop can be noisy, which should be considered when booking space.   

1:00 – 2:00pm: Lunch

2:00 – 5:00pm: Second Workshop Session

(same components as in the morning, groups switch)



Day 3: Digging Deeper

The focus of these sessions will reflect the interests and needs of the groups.  Possible topics include advanced media training, communicating with legislators and policymakers, dealing with the press, or using social media

9:30am – 12:00pm:  First Workshop Session, groups of 8 or 16   Choose one of the following sessions:

Opportunities for Outreach: Participants can expect to come away from this workshop with a heightened awareness of different forums for science outreach and writing. This workshop will included writing a letter to the editor (LTE), and focus on clarity, being concise, and finding your voice.

Advanced Media Training: Participants will get additional interview practice and feedback tailored to their individual needs and experiences. For many, this is likely to focus on the difficult skill of simultaneously being responsive and being in control of an interview. Or it could focus on meeting a particular communications challenge, such as handling hostile questions or explaining risk, or on preparing for a specific kind of media encounter. Participants will be able to download their interviews later to use as they wish.

Making the Case for Science: Science leaders need to be able to communicate effectively with members of Congress and other policymakers if they are going to build support for their institution, their field, and the overall importance of scientific research and the scientific approach. This session will help participants find common ground (and a common language) with policymakers. The session will be interactive, with role-playing scenarios that can be shaped to the participants’ specific needs.

Dealing with the Press: This session will provide a crash course in understanding how the media operate, how reporters, producers and editors think, and how science leaders can help them do a better job of covering science and science institutions, including ways to build productive relationships with journalists. Participants are likely to bring to this session experiences — both good and bad –that will serve as a basis for some of the discussion and analysis.

Digital Media: How to use blogs, podcasts, Twitter and other forms of social media for two-way communication with different segments of the public. Includes hands-on instruction.

12:00 – 1:00pm: Lunch

1:00 – 3:30pm: Second Workshop Session, groups of 8 or 16

Choose one of the above sessions

3:30 – 4:00pm: Reflecting on Our Experiences and Workshop Evaluation

What approaches worked better? What choices were productive? Has your approach to communicating changed and, if so, how?  What next steps would be useful? Includes evaluation survey.

Alda-Kavli Leadership Program


Download a printable PDF

The Alda Kavli Leadership Program is for science leaders who are already on the front lines representing their fields or institutions and who want to hone their skills in communicating about science with people outside their field.  The intent is to help them communicate more effectively with diverse audiences, including policymakers, funders, the press, students, and colleagues in other disciplines, as well as the general public.  

The program outlined includes 2 Tracks, Track 1 for 16/24/32 senior faculty, and Track 2 for 16/32 junior faculty, post-docs or graduate students.  Track 1 participants will get a 3-day training, where Track 2 participants will get a 2-day training.  The Track 2 training will begin on day 2 for Track 1.

Track 1 is a “master class” versions of the Alda Center’s core communications workshops.  These focus on connecting with your audience, picking up and responding to their cues, and speaking clearly and conversationally about scientific research and why it matters.  The program also includes mentoring, coaching and other follow-up activities tailored to the participants. In addition, program alumni will have access to an interactive web-based resource center to be launched later this year.

Track 1 Schedule:

Day 1: The Fundamentals

8:00 – 8:30am: Breakfast and Check-In

8:30 – 10:00am: Opening Plenary, unlimited participants

This interactive session introduces participants to general principles in how to craft short, clear, conversational statements, intelligible to non-scientists, about what you do and why it matters. The session consists of an interactive presentation and discussion on interpreting technical material using examples and analogies to illuminate unfamiliar concepts to your audience. The plenary will address problems and solutions in public interactions as well as peer-to-peer communication.  Participants will practice clarity in speaking to non-scientists about their work and may be actively engaged in improvisation exercises or explaining scientific material to lay people.

Space and Technical Requirements: The plenary requires a projector, laptop with internet connection and sound for video, lavalier microphone, technical support for presentation set-up, wireless clicker and flip chart or whiteboard. For a large audience, hand held microphones to pass around are also required.

10:00am – 1:00pm: Improvisation for Scientists, groups of 16

Improvisation for Scientists is a workshop pioneered by science advocate, Alan Alda.  Participants will take part in improvisational theater exercises aimed at helping them connect more directly and spontaneously with different audiences.  This is not about turning scientists into actors or comedians, but about helping the participant recognize and engage with the audience on a level where the message of the scientist can land effectively with the listener.  These games require participants to pay close, dynamic attention to others and emphasize the two-way nature of communication:  What is received counts more than what is said.  Through the course of training, participants will investigate body language, listen with more awareness, and respond with greater sensitivity.

Space and Technical Requirements: Improvisation requires a large (minimum 30’ x 30’) open space with movable chairs. The workshop can be noisy, which should be considered when booking space.   

1:00 – 2:00pm: Lunch

2:00 – 5:30pm: Distilling Your Message, groups of 8

1-hour introductory plenary & 2.5-hour breakout session

The combination of an interactive plenary and small group break out sessions helps participants learn to speak clearly and vividly about their work and why it matters, in terms non-scientists can understand. Participants will practice finding common ground, speaking at different levels of complexity for different audiences, storytelling, and answering questions about their work.  The plenary will address problems and solutions in public interactions as well as peer-to-peer communication.

Space and Technical Requirements: The plenary requires a projector, laptop with internet connection and sound for video, lavalier microphone, technical support for presentation set-up, wireless clicker and flip chart or whiteboard. Breakout sessions should take place in a small conference or classroom, with chairs around a table or in a circle.   



Day 2: Applying Skills

On Day 1, we worked on connecting with audiences and distilling messages.  On Day 2, we’ll apply the lessons of Improvisation and Distilling in more challenging settings. After a warm-up, half the group participate in Media Interview Skills, while the other half will participate in Improvisation II.  After lunch, the groups will switch, so each participant will take both workshop sessions. The day will end with an evaluation session.   

9:00 – 10:00am: Warm-up using improvisation and media interview tips

10:00am – 1:00pm: First Workshop Session, participants divided in half

Media Interview Skills, half the participants in groups of 8

We’ll practice doing a television interview, including using Improvisation skills to prepare and answering questions clearly, crisply, and very briefly. This is a challenging form of Distilling Your Message. The interviews will be recorded on video and participants will be able to download their interview later and use it as they wish.  

Space and Technical Requirements: You will need 1 room per group of 8 that is relatively quiet. You will also need to provide 1 video camera and operator per group of 8. Footage is to be recorded onto standard SD cards for each participant to keep.

Improvisation for Scientists II – Engaging Varied Audiences, groups of 8 or 16

Participants will develop further skills of connection, empathy and relationship introduced in Improvisation and Distilling Your Message.  The session will include games, exercises and role- playing scenarios with difficult audiences.  

Space and Technical Requirements: One large (minimum 30’ x 30’) open spaces with movable chairs.  The workshop can be noisy, which should be considered when booking space.   

1:00 – 2:00 pm: Lunch

2:00 – 5:00 pm: Second Workshop Session

(same components as in the morning, groups switch)



Day 3: Digging Deeper

Track 1 participants can extend their work into a third day by taking two additional sessions.  The focus of these sessions will reflect the interests and needs of the groups.  Possible topics include advanced media training, communicating with legislators and policymakers, dealing with the press, or using social media.  

9:30am – 12:00pm:  First Workshop Session, groups of 8 or 16

Choose one of the following sessions:

Opportunities for Outreach: Participants can expect to come away from this workshop with a heightened awareness of different forums for science outreach and writing. This workshop will included writing a letter to the editor (LTE), and focus on clarity, being concise, and finding your voice.

Advanced Media Training: Participants will get additional interview practice and feedback tailored to their individual needs and experiences. For many, this is likely to focus on the difficult skill of simultaneously being responsive and being in control of an interview. Or it could focus on meeting a particular communications challenge, such as handling hostile questions or explaining risk, or on preparing for a specific kind of media encounter. Participants will be able to download their interviews later to use as they wish.

Making the Case for Science: Science leaders need to be able to communicate effectively with members of Congress and other policymakers if they are going to build support for their institution, their field, and the overall importance of scientific research and the scientific approach. This session will help participants find common ground (and a common language) with policymakers. The session will be interactive, with role-playing scenarios that can be shaped to the participants’ specific needs.

Dealing with the Press: This session will provide a crash course in understanding how the media operate, how reporters, producers and editors think, and how science leaders can help them do a better job of covering science and science institutions, including ways to build productive relationships with journalists. Participants are likely to bring to this session experiences — both good and bad –that will serve as a basis for some of the discussion and analysis.

Digital Media: How to use blogs, podcasts, Twitter and other forms of social media for two-way communication with different segments of the public. Includes hands-on instruction.

12:00 – 1:00pm: Lunch

1:00 – 3:30pm: Second Workshop Session, groups of 8 or 16

Choose one of the above sessions

3:30 – 4:00pm: Reflecting on Our Experiences and Workshop Evaluation

What approaches worked better? What choices were productive? Has your approach to communicating changed and, if so, how?  What next steps would be useful? Includes evaluation survey.