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Getting out of the brain maze: how a TEDx-style speech concert looked behind the scenes

At the end of last year, the media institute's university-wide elective "Popularising Science on TEDx" ended. The course resulted in a speech-concert in which the student speakers worked out how to "get out of the mazes of the brain".

Getting out of the brain maze: how a TEDx-style speech concert looked behind the scenes

In their speeches, students touched on combating procrastination, explaining how our brain makes decisions, explaining the usefulness of artificial intelligence, and tackling many other topics.

Polina Menshova, a TEDx science popularization course teaching assistant

«The goal and mission of the elective is to create a popularisation movement at HSE. I want the university to have a community that presents science in a language that is understandable to a wide audience».

The online classes were structured in such a way that throughout the course, students gradually shaped their presentation message, from choosing a scientific topic and adjusting it to recording a speech on camera. At the same time, Vladimir Sychenkov, Ph.D. in Philology, Associate Professor at the Media Institute, and author of the course, gave lectures to students on the history of the TED format, the rules of constructing a speech at a conference, and the popularization of science. The students learned the tools that enabled them to prepare original speeches, share knowledge with different audiences, and attract and retain the attention of the audience.

Vladimir Sychenkov
Media Institute: Associate Professor

After TEDx Skolkovo-2021, where I worked as a speech coach, I had a dream to apply this experience to an educational course, - said Vladimir. - We won the competition for university-wide elective courses, and about 120 students signed up. Considering that the guys were preparing from scratch and in an online format, they made high-quality speeches in the context of the elective.

Participating in the Speech Concert was  optional, but students who did venture into the experience noted its importance for their further development as speakers. For example, student Daria Bezgodova found the performance a real challenge and an escape from her comfort zone: "I was very scared the day before, even to the point of losing my voice and having thoughts of not taking part. But I was too curious, so I decided to do it. I got new mixed feelings and emotions, but they were definitely positive". Another speaker, Elena Wolf, said that the difficult task for her was to balance the speech so as to bring the information to the audience without going into professional details. At the same time, the lecturers supported the students at all stages of preparation and worked individually with each of them to form the highest quality and most captivating speeches.

The organisers of the optional course believe that they have achieved their goal. The project demonstrated that science can be of interest to a wide range of people, even those who are not professionally involved in it. "Science is not just for scientists who sit in their offices and calculate, compute, and test something,- explained Polina Menshova. - But also for those who are not engaged in it professionally. It is useful for everyone, first and foremost, for practical purposes, not just for general development".

The elective is intended to help those whose careers involve public speaking or passing on knowledge and skills. "I think it makes sense to prepare such speech concerts in schools in order to get children interested in science, - shared a participant in the concert, Inna Rezvanova. - And for people who are retired or not working. They will definitely be interested in learning about scientific achievements from young people in such a concise and vivid way, which will certainly contribute to the development of trust between generations".

Photo: from the archive of V. Sychenkov

Participants in the Speech Concert expect that their debut will be supported by other HSE students. "We chose topics of concern to people like us during the session and beyond: how to free your memory from unnecessary things, trick your brain, and put your studies on pause, if necessary", said Daria Kuznetsova, a participant in the conference. According to the students, engaging in the popularization of science is more relevant than ever, and it can be of interest to a large number of young people.

The course was highly valued by students in two categories. It was the best in the criteria "Usefulness of the course for your future career" and "Usefulness of the course for broadening your horizons and versatile development". The authors of the elective plan to run it again next autumn, reinforcing the theoretical part and diving even deeper into the topic of popularising science.

 

Author: Maria Reznik, a first-year student of "Transmedia Production in Digital Industries" master's programme of the Media Institute

Translation: Polina Semenova, a first-year student of Master's programme "Contemporary Journalism"