Teaching Beyond Higher Ed: The Art of Public Communication

A New Credential for Graduate StudentsThe Art of Public Communication stock image

A public talk is an important medium through which you can communicate your research area and your discipline—to audiences beyond higher education. While engaging with professional colleagues within academia represents a critical aspect of academic life, there are likely other contexts in which your work can also make an impact. Your area of expertise may hold relevance for community groups, non-profits, K-12 schools, religious organizations, NGOs, politicians and legislatures, museums, clubs, or any number of other non-academic audiences. The question, then, is how best to communicate your area of interest/expertise with a broader, non-academic audience. Conveying your message about your research to an audience relies upon effective communication skills. Audiences prefer to learn information and skills that are interesting and relevant to them—and they generally respond better when that information is related as a story or narrative, communicated in an understandable manner by a presenter who is not only knowledgeable, but also personable, relatable, and approachable. Effective presenters emphasize the key elements of their message and maintain focus on that message, all while conveying the significance of that message in an interesting format, which maintains audience attention and makes the learning process enjoyable.

“Teaching Beyond Higher Ed” is a semester-long mentorship program for graduate students, offered through the University Center for Teaching and Learning, the Graduate Student Teaching Initiative, and the Center for Communication, in the art of public communication and more specifically, the skill of giving a public talk. It provides participants with strategies for effective communication, including knowing your audience and how to relate your subject to their interest, how to translate research jargon into understandable concepts for the wider public, and how to keep the audience engaged and confident in the “take-away” from your presentation. Pointers will also be given on answering audience questions, maintaining a conversational tone, and conveying the ‘big picture’.

Participants will identify a public venue and audience, propose a topic for a public talk, and then work with Teaching Center staff to develop and give an effective talk. The program features one-on-one consultations, personalized feedback as participants develop their public talk/presentation, a “dry-run” workshop of the talk, and feedback on the final presentation. While it is preferred that participants secure their own venue/audience, Teaching Center staff will also be available to help participants secure a venue, if needed. Participants who complete the program will be awarded a credential in public communication. Participants in the Achievement in Pedagogy program, offered through the Graduate Student Teaching Initiative, may also count this credential toward the “Professional Development” focus in the program.

For any questions, please contact the Graduate Student Teaching Initiative at tahelp@pitt.edu.

Register and fill out introductory questionnaire