About Melissa

Bio

I am on a mission: to transform how scientists and engineers present their work. That’s because I believe that even the best science is destined to remain undiscovered unless it’s presented in a clear and compelling way that sparks innovation and drives adoption.

For almost a decade, I've traveled around the world to work with Fortune 100 corporations, institutions and universities, teaching the proven strategies I've mastered through my consulting work and during my time as a faculty member with the Department of Communication Arts & Sciences at Penn State University.

TED Conference

TEDGlobal 2012

Areas of Expertise

scientific communication, Scientific Presentations and Slide Design, Engineering Outreach

An idea worth spreading

Science not communicated is science not done.

I'm passionate about

Empowering scientists and engineers to present their work effectively. Eradicating bullet points from PowerPoint slides.

Favorite talks

Comments & conversations

240341
Melissa Marshall
Posted over 2 years ago
Tyler DeWitt: Hey science teachers -- make it fun
Tyler, thank you so much for this talk! Your points are absolutely essential and were made so well. We desperately need more passionate communicators like you sharing the awesome stories of science if we are going to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers to solve our great challenges. You get it. I loved your focus on "The cult of seriousness" and "The tyranny of precision"--those are huge roadblocks to successful and engaging science communication. I could not agree more. Thanks for sharing this important idea in such a passionate and relevant way! Great job!
240341
Melissa Marshall
Posted over 2 years ago
Melissa Marshall: Talk nerdy to me
Mr. White, Thanks for your request for some resources on how to use these strategies correctly. I'd like to share with you the Assertion-Evidence Slide Design which was developed and primarily researched by my Penn State colleague, Michael Alley. This slide design strategy makes presentations in science and engineering more understandable and memorable. You can learn all about it here at Prof. Alley's website: http://www.writing.engr.psu.edu/slides.html There are examples, templates, research, and videos on the site to help you learn about WHY this is a superior strategy to bullet points. I also did a short interview with Indezine blog where I discussed the design: http://blog.indezine.com/2012/04/scientific-presentations-conversation.html I hope that these will be concrete resources that might help you to "test" the ideas I introduced. I wish you the best in your future presentations.
240341
Melissa Marshall
Posted over 2 years ago
Melissa Marshall: Talk nerdy to me
Az Erndt, Thank you for your kind words about my talk, and I am so pleased that you find the themes that were touched on to be useful to the work of you and your colleagues...that was the intention. I wish you the very best with the communication of the important work that you do everyday as an engineer. Sincerely, Melissa
240341
Melissa Marshall
Posted over 2 years ago
Melissa Marshall: Talk nerdy to me
You are right! It's too bad that the equation is proving to be such a sticking point for some. That wasn't my intention. To be clear, I knew beforehand that it wasn't "mathematically accurate"...that wasn't really the point of it. I took a bit of creative license because I thought it was a fun way to summarize the parts of the talk (which I also intended to have a lighthearted tone (should be clear from the title!) because of the short length). I didn't really think that people would take it quite so literally--I assure you that it wasn't intended to be a blatant disregard for mathematical accuracy! I was simply trying to say that you should divide the science by relevance, meaning that you shouldn't share every detail of the science, but just those parts meaningful to the audience that you are addressing. I tried to indicate this when I said during the delivery "Divide by relevance...meaning share what is relevant to the audience". I hope you (and others who have commented the same way) might now view it in the way it was intended--as a fun summary technique. Most importantly, I hope you'll consider my core message. Thanks for your comment.
240341
Melissa Marshall
Posted over 2 years ago
Melissa Marshall: Talk nerdy to me
Mr. White, First of all, I appreciate you expressing your point of view in the way Ms. McManus has cited. I have really struggled to figure out how to engage with some of the negative comments here (mostly the ones that were mean spirited and not constructive), but I wanted to respond to you because your feeling is one that I desperately want to respond to, and I hope you will read this and consider it. Honestly, to hear that an engineer like yourself feels mocked by my talk makes me really sad. My intention was the exact opposite, and I am sorry that I achieved something different in your case and a few others who shared your view. I love engineers and scientists. I want you to know that I started on this journey 5 years ago (teaching communication to engineers) and that my work with engineering students at Penn State changed my life and that is what inspired this talk. I find engineers (and scientists) to be an incredibly inspiring group of people. I believe so strongly that engineers are the ones who will positively impact the health, happiness, and safety of our world that I co-founded (along with Karen Thole & Michael Alley) a group called the Penn State Engineering Ambassadors (www.engineeringambassadors.org). The goal of this group is to recruit the next generation of diverse engineers using great communication as a way to share the messages about the impact that a career in engineering can have. I share this as a way to show you that although, unfortunately, my 4 minutes on the TED stage said something different to you, that my actions of the last 5 years support something quite different. I am tremendously inspired by the work of engineers and scientists and I believe that work is vitally important. I also think that great communication can bridge the gap between the awesome work being done by scientists and engineers and the understanding that those outside those fields can have. That's what I wanted to do with this short, meant to be fun, talk.
240341
Melissa Marshall
Posted over 2 years ago
Melissa Marshall: Talk nerdy to me
Love this! So true. I really liked what you said about "simple, willing, and open"...there are so many wonderful possibilities that can grow from that starting point with our communication. Thanks for sharing this important thought.
240341
Melissa Marshall
Posted over 2 years ago
Melissa Marshall: Talk nerdy to me
Nathan, Thanks for sharing such a useful article. I liked it very much. I also think it supported a few of my points. For example: "Even in conversation, scientists start with a communication problem — words that are perfectly ordinary within science are simply never heard on a football terrace or in a tavern or bus queue. So to be effective communicators, scientists have to learn to stand back from their own work and see it as strangers might do." Exactly. And then I tried to share a few simple, practical ways that scientists might communicate their work to others who don't see it the same way. I certainly don't believe that all scientists are poor communicators and that was not an assumption of my talk. In fact, I co-founded an award-winning outreach organization called the Engineering Ambassadors (www.engineeringambassadors.org) that is based solely on the communication talents of Engineering undergraduates. These Engineering Ambassadors are incredibly talented communicators and are a great inspiration to me. It is important to note that these students do receive communications training and that training builds upon their natural gifts (much like those mentioned in your article: clarity, observation, and knowledge). What I do believe is that scientific material can be very challenging to communicate to those without the same background, and yet, we desperately need to have greater public understanding and appreciation for science and engineering. I think that skilled and savvy communication (using, among many others, a few of the strategies I've mentioned in this very short talk) can help to fill that gap.
240341
Melissa Marshall
Posted over 2 years ago
Melissa Marshall: Talk nerdy to me
Hello Vishnu, You are right! It's too bad that the equation is proving to be such a sticking point for some. That wasn't my intention. To be clear, I knew beforehand that it wasn't "mathematically accurate"...that wasn't really the point of it. I took a bit of creative license because I thought it was a fun way to summarize the parts of the talk (which I also intended to have a lighthearted tone (should be clear from the title!) because of the short length). I didn't really think that people would take it quite so literally--I assure you that it wasn't intended to be a blatant disregard for mathematical accuracy! I was simply trying to say that you should divide the science by relevance, meaning that you shouldn't share every detail of the science, but just those parts meaningful to the audience that you are addressing. Thanks for watching the talk and I'm glad that you appreciated the central message.
240341
Melissa Marshall
Posted over 2 years ago
Melissa Marshall: Talk nerdy to me
I continue to appreciate the debate and discussion happening here about what kind of communication needs to occur between scientists and non-scientists! That was something I hoped to achieve with this short talk was to identify a few areas that might help make those interactions more valuable. Thanks to those of you taking the time to share your perspectives here. I understand the perspectives on my talk are quite varied, but I believe strongly in the idea I shared: That we need great communication between scientists and non-scientists because that will have a positive impact on our world. And I think there are a few techniques that scientists and engineers can use to make their work more accessible to a general public. The reason that I really care about this is because THE WORK MATTERS. The work being done by scientists and engineers is so important, and I want to help to make sure the importance of that work is highlighted and honored so that others (outside the field) appreciate the importance as well. And I think that starts with good communication. It's too bad that the equation is proving to be such a sticking point for some. That wasn't my intention. To be clear, I knew beforehand that it wasn't "mathematically accurate" (the many scientists and engineers I work with on a daily basis told me that!)...that wasn't really the point of it. I took a bit of creative license because I thought it was a fun way to summarize the parts of the talk (which I also intended to have a lighthearted tone (should be clear from the title!) because of the short length). I didn't really think that people would take it quite so literally--I assure you that it wasn't intended to be a blatant disregard for mathematical accuracy! I was simply trying to say that you should divide the science by relevance, meaning that you shouldn't share every detail of the science, but just those parts meaningful to the audience. Thanks again for watching and considering the idea.
240341
Melissa Marshall
Posted over 2 years ago
Melissa Marshall: Talk nerdy to me
Hi Erik! Thanks for taking a look. I took some creative license with the equation...the point was to say that you want to choose which aspects of the science you share (relevant details are a good place to start) because it can be tempting to share so many details that nothing comes through clearly. So that was what was meant (creatively, not mathematically) when I said "divide the science by relevance".