I love watching Ted Talks. I often analyse them with the scientists who attend the scientific presentation class. One thing TED presenters do extremely well is to bring in the audience into their world at the beginning of their talk. Joe Landolina, in an excellent presentation on his wound-healing invention, starts with the following words: “I want you guys to imagine that you are a soldier running through the battlefield. Now you are shot in the leg by a bullet severing your femoral artery. Now this is extremely traumatic and call kill you in less than three minutes.” Behind him on the gigantic screen is the picture of soldiers walking away at sunset, followed by the image of a soldier on the ground with a leg wound. The images help your imagination. You are the first hand witness to a traumatic life-threatening event.
I can hear some of you scientists already object! “Our scientific work is not traumatic. We rarely get to use emotions to pull in the audience into our topic.” Yet the presentation is about a polymeric gel that temporarily replaces the extracellular matrix scaffolding (EMC) and forms different tissues help the blood seal and vascularize a repaired wound. The presentation includes analogies (forest canopy, etc.) to bridge the knowledge gap on the EMC, as well as an animation. In this case, bringing the audience into the talk was through the application of what was created (the gel). But you could bring the audience in through the context surrounding your work.
I remember a presentation which took place on June 13 2016, the day England decided to quit the European Community – Brexit day. It was about the impact of political uncertainty on mergers and acquisitions. The presenter talked about the 2017 US elections – forgetting all about the traumatic event that happened that day! And there was also that other presentation on Fluorescent GFP tag the day after its inventor, Roger Tsien, the nobel laureate, passed away. The presenter made no mention of the fact!
Finding a relationship between your topic and what is in the eye of the media is one of the surest way to interest your audience and make your topic relevant.
To conclude: You want attention? Make your topic as close as possible to common concerns.