The Alda Kavli Leadership Program


The Alda Kavli Leadership Program is for scientists already on the front lines representing their fields and institutions. The program includes specialized versions of the Alda Center’s core workshop communications sessions, along with a selection of additional sessions that target specific needs, such as engaging the media, government, donors or other important constituencies. Scientists who complete the workshop also will have access to mentoring, coaching and other follow-up activities uniquely designed for this program.

An invitation from Alan Alda:

How to apply:

Universities, research institutes and other science institutions may apply to host a two- or three-day Alda Kavli Leadership Program workshop for science leaders from their own campus and from neighboring institutions. The Center also provide a companion track of sessions for scientists with little or no experience communicating science, including graduate student and postdoctoral fellows. These participants, however, will not receive the specialized training and follow-up provided for the leadership participants. To discuss the program in greater depth, interested institutions should contact the Center using this form.

What participants say:

Workshop contents:

The leadership workshop includes these elements:

Improvisation for Scientists
The centerpiece of the Alda Center’s workshops, this session adapts improvisation exercises used in theater training to help scientists be more attentive, effective and dynamic communicators. Distinct from what is commonly thought of as improvisation in acting or comedy, the session’s activities are specially designed to help scientists express themselves more directly and spontaneously, and become more finely tuned to the people they are trying to engage, whether speaking one-on-one or before an audience.

Distilling Your Message
This session focuses on how to talk clearly, vividly and conversationally about complex science to a variety of audiences without “dumbing it down.” Conducted in small workgroups with one or two instructors, these sessions are highly interactive and provide an opportunity to receive personal and valuable direction. They also provide an opportunity to become more familiar with the techniques used for effectively distilling a message, from the elements of storytelling to remaining focused on the goal of an interaction.

Media Interview Skills
On-camera training provides instruction and practice in conveying concisely the heart of your message while responding to sometimes unpredictable questions in relaxed or high-pressure situations. Conducted in small workgroups, this session also allows for personal, one-to-one coaching from the Center’s instructors, along with valuable feedback from peers attending the session.

Optional Specialized Sessions

  • Speaking with policy makers: This session focuses on the dynamics when visiting a legislator’s office and communicating effectively about your field. Led by an instructor with experience working in, or with, legislative offices in Washington, D.C., the session is highly interactive, inviting participants to take part in one-on-one exercises and mock presentations.
  • Dealing with the media: This session focuses on understanding how the media operate and how science leaders can influence coverage and build productive relationships with journalists and new-media practitioners. This session, led by an experienced journalist, includes active participation in scenarios tailored to the participants’ needs. The Center’s preparation includes consultation with the host institution’s communications office.
  • Advanced interview training: This highly individualized session provides instruction, practice and coaching for specific communication challenges, such as explaining risk or responding to hostile questions, as well as preparation for specific planned or anticipated media encounters.

The Alda Kavli Leadership program is supported by The Kavli Foundation.

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