It is time for change in science: Personality and personal charisma are important key skills for scientists of the future. In times of ChatGPT and artificial intelligence, we need personalities who share their unique passion. Let personality shine through presentations!

The conventional Way: “Publish or Perish“

Journalist Lukas Grasberger wrote as early as 2014 on the “Turning Point in Science”: Digital science must be transparent and open. Ideas and data should therefore be disclosed at an early stage.

Of course, this is diametrically opposed to the traditional science ethos: Once you share information even before it is published, it is seen as obstructive or even dangerous, Grasberger explains.

“Publish or Perish” means researchers publish as much as they can, and they do so as soon as possible during the PhD, once the first results pop up.

I experienced this myself as a PhD student, balancing the demands of publishing, writing reviews, writing grant applications, submitting progress reports to secure funding for my fellowship, preparing and following up on lectures – and my favorite hobbyhorse: Attending science conferences, discussing my results there, and cultivating and expanding my network.

Time for Change: From Frontal Lecture to Interaction

It is time for a completely new era in science! It is time we convey our knowledge in a way that is completely different from the classic, dusty frontal lecture. This is about the megatrend of “knowledge culture” proclaimed by the so-called “Zukunftsinstitut”.

My motto is “Creating knowledge by speaking” – and by that I mean that we can share our knowledge much better through entertaining and interactive talks than through dull 90-minute monologues that students attend simply because they were declared to be compulsory courses.

Today, we no longer must rattle off content from textbooks. We can encourage independent learning via literature, short video-inputs, and hands-on assignments in the spirit of the “Flipped Classroom”. Then meeting with the whole group as a substitute for lectures: Interaction instead of frontal lecture, resolve unanswered questions and deepen topics. The ultimate goal is to apply and implement theoretical knowledge in practice. In this way, the seemingly omniscient lecturer becomes a professional expert: A moderator and mediator for the students. This would be a real turning point in science, and of course in our schools!


Personality matters more than Artificial Intelligence

But what will be the consequence of the still established way of “Publish or Perish”? A growing number of researchers is turning to ChatGPT because it allows them to compile the contents of a paper much more quickly. And already there are the first critical comments … here from H. Holden Thorp, editor-in-chief of the renowned Science Magazine: “Ultimately the product must come from – and be expressed by – the wonderful computer in our heads.” Everything else is seen as plagiarism, even when it comes to illustrations, graphics, and results.

Neuroscientist, author and speaker Henning Beck sums it up in a LinkedIn discussion: “AI [Artificial Intelligence] does not break rules, but optimizes the past.”  (…) AI will never replace smart thinking. (…) “ChatGPT remains stupid. [It] cannot distinguish cause and effect. [It] does not understand what it is doing. [It] is only good if the trained data set was good.” Beck argues that we should question things far more, communicate content in a clever way with substance, and use AI as a tool to do so.

The difference between humans in a presentation and what makes us distinctive and unique is personal enthusiasm and passion. This is where we should pick up and gain clarity about why we love what we do.


Bring in your Personality and Passion

This also means that our presentations should be designed quite differently in the future if we want to distinguish ourselves from conventional presenters. Of course we can train ourselves in rhetorical techniques. But we should only apply them if we are personally convinced of them and do not artificially disguise ourselves.

Based on my own experience, three aspects are crucial for this:

  1. Let your personality shine. When presenting their project, many people limit themselves to technical content, facts and figures. Very few people show their personal connection and share their enthusiasm for the topic. But how can you inspire your audience if you always remain factual and neutral? Instead, I recommend you share anecdotes and personal stories with direct reference to your topic! Your audience should feel you identify with your project, and that you are motivated.
  2. Share your enthusiasm and passion. Successful presentations involve excitement and emotion! Share with your audience why you think your project is cool and irresistible. Can you share any special moments in your presentation? As a child, did you love to tinker? Do you remember a situation where you gained a groundbreaking insight? Maybe your project builds on that?
  3. Share your personal, intrinsic motivation. What was your vision when you started? Is your mission clear? What values do you represent? Only few people address these aspects in a presentation. It is important that your anecdote or personal story fits into the content of your presentation. Always keep in mind that the more you share your motivation and passion, the more authentic you will appear. Your audience is sensitive to whether you mean what you say.

Today, what counts more than ever is that we do not artificially disguise ourselves. Accordingly, my rhetoric trainings are based on the personal passion of each participant. I also teach rhetorical techniques – but always only as far as they fit the personalities who want to take the next step forward. So I wish you that you also deliver many successful speeches with your enthusiasm and personal passion. You would like to learn more about this in my keynote speech? Here you get a short overview.

It is time for change in science!

This post is also available in: German

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