What science and outreach minded person wouldn’t want to spend two weeks hanging out in Banff and talking about science communication? Heck, maybe I’d actually get to meet Jay Ingram.
That was my motivation for applying to the Banff Science Communications program.
It sounded pretty nice, like a mini vacation from my then-reality of wrestling with equations and writing my thesis. I was in for a surprise.
What happened in Banff was much more than just hanging out and getting Jay’s autograph. What happened was an immersive, full contact learning experience, in which all faculty and participants went all-in every day. What happened was creativity unleashed in an emotionally and technically supportive environment.
Two weeks after getting home, I’m still reeling from what happened. Luckily, having already finished my thesis, and with no job yet in sight (please hire me, someone!), I’ve had some time to reflect and put together the following twee-cap of the #banffsci14 experience.
First things first: Banff is beautiful
— Jeremy Hirota (@jeremyhirota) July 28, 2014
— Mark Louie (@homersapient) July 28, 2014
— Rose Eveleth (@roseveleth) August 3, 2014
The first few days: Many lessons for (science) communication
Workshops filled the first few days of the program. From science writing to video to internet things, an entire swath of #scicomm-relevant topics were covered.
Throughout the program, an emphasis was on putting an interesting story around your information.
Quote of the day (so far) for me: “Name the cat.” Make your story tangible and personal. #banffsci14
— Jared Stang (@StangJared) July 28, 2014
We had time (and scheduled sessions) for fun too. Our creativity flourished during a clay-making hour: Enter Salsatron, the salsa-dancing robot.
Many good sound bites came out of discussions about the creative process.
— Shelly Fan (@ShellyFan) July 29, 2014
“Darlings” are ideas you have trouble letting go of; no people-type darlings were injured during the program.
— Jared Stang (@StangJared) July 31, 2014
Another big idea that permeated the program was that in this type of work, the audience should drive the message.
Quote of the day at #banffsci14: “People already think something.”
— Jared Stang (@StangJared) July 30, 2014
Finally, we talked about branding, both in general and on a personal level.
Quote of the day at #banffsci14 : “The one word that encapsulates the characteristics of a strong brand: focus.”
— Jared Stang (@StangJared) August 1, 2014
“What you deliver to your audience must match with your brand image – or you will lose your audience” #banffsci14
— Jeremy Hirota (@jeremyhirota) July 31, 2014
— Jeremy Hirota (@jeremyhirota) July 31, 2014
An important part of this is putting your personal touch on the story.
Lessons for broadcasting science: “Give them a sense of who you are and why you’re fascinated with this stuff” #banffsci14
— Jared Stang (@StangJared) August 4, 2014
“Be interesting and be interested” Raj-tron #banffsci14
— Jeremy Hirota (@jeremyhirota) August 7, 2014
Getting our hands dirty: The group project
Part way through the program, the group projects began. And let me tell you, they really began. It was like someone flipped a switch and the program turned from sunshine and lollipops to the inside of a volcano: the intensity turned up to 11.
Roughly, in the group, we had to be creative and produce on a strict timeline. A website, a podcast, a video, a presentation; all this to be done and only a few short days to do it in.
We begin in the middle, after much of the creative effort to come up with an idea, with the podcast editing.
Next, a behind the scenes look at the clay-creation of an important prop in our video.
— Raj Bhardwaj (@RajBhardwajMD) August 4, 2014
We filmed our video at and around the Banff Centre.
Some grunt work ensued, to cut down the raw footage and pick out the clips that were good and useable.
— Raj Bhardwaj (@RajBhardwajMD) August 7, 2014
Next, hours were spent in the video-editing booth.
There were celebratory moments along the way.
— Raj Bhardwaj (@RajBhardwajMD) August 8, 2014
The presentation was a real event: We had to take care of audio, video, and lights.
Finally, after all the hard work, we received feedback from external guests.
— Raj Bhardwaj (@RajBhardwajMD) August 9, 2014
Final hours: Salsatron reappears
This iteration was lovingly constructed by Anna Noga and Kamala Patel.
A fitting final summary
Ultimately, I did end up with Jay’s autograph. But, I also came away with so much more. There is no hyperbole in Raj’s summary: