Using Multimedia & Visuals

Well-chosen visuals enhance messages. | Ashley Gilleland, AAAS

People today are using images, graphics, audio, and video to share information they would have otherwise shared with ink and paper only a few decades ago. Eighty-seven percent of U.S. adults with online access say they feel better informed thanks to the internet and cell phones, and 47 percent of people on the internet share photos and videos they find online. With so many people communicating digitally, scientists have a tremendous opportunity to share news and information online. Regardless of the media, however, scientist-communicators must focus on their audience and use clear language to be effective.

Before You Start

Ask these 3 key questions:

  1. Audience: Do your homework. Who are you talking to? Are your images and arguments comprehensible, appropriate, and engaging for your audience?
  2. Messages: What are your main messages? Focus on three core messages starting with the "big point" you wish to make.
  3. Media: What medium is most appropriate for your audience and messages? Do you have the resources needed to use that medium?

Using video

Video is a powerful tool for communication. As TED talks have shown, engaging science communication can sometimes reach millions of people online. Here are some ideas for creating and using videos:

  1. Share a lecture or presentation with a wider audience

    A good quality video posted online can enormously increase the audience for a lecture. Universities and conferences often have video-recording capabilities or can stream video online. Ensure the correct permissions exist before sharing any video widely.

  2. Explain the background to any research

    Consider giving visual tours of research facilities, supplementing blog posts about research with footage of the lab, or compiling frequently-asked-questions (FAQs) into a video.

  3. Record and review

    Bring a recorder or video equipment when giving a public talk, appearing at a science café, going to a conference, or traveling into the field. Ask audiences in advance for permission to record them when they ask questions. Use "on location" audio or video recordings to give audiences a special behind-the-scenes look. Compile the recordings to tell a visual story.

  4. Supplement presentations

    It is easy to insert video into PowerPoint, or similar, presentations. Videos can add depth, showing context – especially for field research – and bringing in additional voices, such as colleagues and partners.

  5. Enhance blogs or websites

    Introduce people, research, books, projects, and more. Tell personal stories. Answer questions such as “What led you into your topic?” and “Why do you take pride in your work?” For those just getting started, consider making a video answering the question "Who are you, and what do you do?" in three minutes or less. Watch a video produced during AAAS Communicating Science workshops at the University of Maryland.

  6. Post videos to social media sites

    There are a range of free online video sites, each with its pros and cons. Upload videos to YouTube, Vimeo, or another online site to share information with the general public. These sites also usually provide embed codes that creators can use to add videos to other blog posts or websites.

Using audio

Use podcasts or post other audio files to reach listeners online. Consider providing FAQs or a research overview on a webpage, social networking site, or blog. Some blogging platforms also allow users to record audio reports on a smart phone and post them directly to the blog.

Video and Audio Do’s and Don’ts

…plan a recording structure and practice beforehand. If relevant, develop a set of questions to ask during the recording. …rely on spontaneity or being able to edit the recording afterward.
…build communication around clear and coherent messages. State these at the beginning. …take a long time to reach main points. Internet users have plentiful distractions. Capture and hold people's attention right away.
…look at the interviewer while being videoed. …look at the camera.
…speak clearly. Enunciate carefully and explain specialist terms. …use acronyms or terms that are not readily understood.
…use a good external clip-on microphone or headset, even with low-budget videos or video recordings made on a computer. …depend on the low quality microphone on a computer or video camera. The biggest avoidable fault of online video is poor audio.
…take the time to set up good lighting. Adjust the settings for brightness and contrast. …shoot video in poorly-lit or over-illuminated spaces which will look unprofessional.

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