Drawing on his own hilarious—and at times humiliating—evolution from science professor to Hollywood filmmaker, Olson shares the secrets of talking substance in an age of style. The key, he argues, is to stay true to the facts while tapping into something more primordial, more irrational, and ultimately more human.
In a book enlivened by profane acting teachers and earnest scientists, serious insights and poignant stories, Olson walks the walk. You’ll laugh, you may cry, and you’ll certainly learn how to communicate critical scientific and environmental issues using your heart as well as your head.
In 1997, marine biologist Olson recognized that scientists needed better communications skills to address a growing backlash against "rational data-based science." Inspired by the "power of video," Olson gave up a tenured professorship and went to Hollywood to reach a broader audience through filmmaking. The crucial lesson he learned was how to tell a good story, a largely absent concern for scientists, who focus on accuracy rather than audience engagement. It was a lesson Olson learned the hard way, after his intelligent design documentary, Flock of Dodos, flopped for lack of a lively story line. By "starting with a quirky little tidbit" about his mother and the intelligent design lawyer she lives next to, Olson found the hook he was missing. Olson values motivation over education, looking to Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth ("the most important and best-made piece of environmental media in history") for a hugely successful example of his principles in action. As if to prove all he's learned, Olson packs this highly entertaining book with more good stories than good advice, spurring readers to rethink their personal communication styles rather than ape Olson's example.
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Should be required reading for all scientists
A fellow scientist turned me on to this book. The author uses a friendly voice to discuss how science can be effectively communicated to non-scientists. Non-scientists may think that to be an easy task (“just don’t use big sciency words”), but it’s not that simple. I enjoyed reading about his transition from academia (analytical) to Hollywood (storytelling), and pitfalls along the way. With nearly every page, I learned how to improve my communication methods. A very good read that I’m recommending to my colleagues, especially useful for those of us that must present scientific concepts to the public.