Performance range

I keep forgetting that this blog can be about performance skills as well as, you know, demos. Here we go (this really starts around the 40 second mark):

Not science. Not a demonstration. But look at the range of ways Wilde says ‘Shut up!’. Impressive.

ScienceDemo blogger Elin Roberts has an exercise/game (once memorably, if incongruously, played in the library of the Royal Institution) called ‘Sandeels.’ The construction is that all participants are puffins, and that puffins have very limited vocabulary and topics of conversation. Specifically, the only thing they ever discuss – and the only word they know – is ‘sandeels.’ Players take a card which specifies an emotion or mood, and have to perform that emotion using only the word ‘sandeels.’ Ian Simmons’ ‘cantankerous’ puffin is a sight to behold.

These sorts of exercises are useful for exploring our range as performers, and they help us think about the details of how we deliver demonstrations.

2 thoughts on “Performance range”

  1. Personally I am always wary of focussing on ‘performance skills’.

    The reason is that as person who is paid to be a scientist who communicates ‘on the side’ I feel it is important to appear in public as ‘me’.

    This is contrast to people who are paid to ‘communicate science’ for whom ‘the performance’ is their main focus.

    I realise that I am fooling myself: standing up in public is always a performance and increasing one’s range just widens the repertoire of possibilities from which one may draw. Nonetheless I am wary of becoming a better ‘performer’ in case it ends obscuring ‘me’

    Does that make sense?

    1. I understand the concern that you have Michael, but for me performance skills are a way of expressing the best version of you for your audience, not about turning you into a completely different person.

      We all play slightly different roles in each different social situation in which we find ourselves. We’re not (generally) trying to deceive others – instead we unconsciously exaggerate or edit our personality traits to suit the role we are playing. Thinking about your “performing character” (and we *all* have one) helps you to work out what elements of your personality are most engaging for your audience in this role.

      It took me a while to realise that my audiences are almost always more interested in me, that in what I was presenting or demonstrating. So chose from the performance technique toolbox carefully – the techniques must reinforce, not mask with your natural personality.

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