One of the perks of working at Plymouth University is that it offers an interesting range of courses one can do within the framework of professional development. Some time ago I registered for "media training"; I was warned the participants are dragged right out of their comfort zone. That would be interesting!
The day came. A few apprehensive academics gathered in a room. Soon the instructors introduced themselves: they turned out to be two ex-BBC journalists who had started a company giving media training to academics. QED. They used the morning to talk us through things like how to summarise your research in a press release, how to draw in an audience, what questions you need to have answered to yourself before you reach out, where to look during a TV interview, and how to deal with difficult questions. Some of that we practiced; we, for instance, all made a draft press release, to which we got useful feedback.
After lunch it got much more confronting; we were all interviewed in front of a camera. We had all been told what the first question would be, but the rest would be all new to us. Exciting!
To my surprise, my question was "you mention on your science blog that we here up north should be most worried about Antarctic melting. Why is that?" I was chuffed they had bothered to read the blog! And it's a fun question to answer. I had to do that staright after lunch; I was the first camera victim. And to my surprise, I enjoyed it! It was hard, because they evidently had read quite some of my blog posts; I suddenly got a question on geo-engineering. I didn't see that one coming! Of course I gave an unwise answer.
When we had all been interviewed, and had received feedback on the played back recordings, we all were interviewed again, so we could avoid the pits we had tumbled straight into the first time. To my surprise, I enjoyed that less, as it was more familiar now, and less of an adrenaline kick. But I was better than I thought I would be!
When these interviews were also played back to us, accompanied with feedback, the day was over. It had been a great day! Not only had it been very educational, but we had also been a very interdisciplenary group; we had two material scientists, one poet/painter, one lady doing stuff with waste management in Nigeria, and a historian studying a rebellious 16th century printer. It was great to hear all these people being interviewed! I was especially charmed by the printer. Next week I'll go and have a coffee with the lady who dedicates her time to this character. She can tell me more about Tudor typography, and she was keen to hear me say more about ice ages and geo-engineering! These things one learns at a university. And if ever someone wants to stick a camera in my face while I speak of such things, I'll be slightly prepared!