Business, Science & Tech

Communication Tactics

Neil deGrasse Tyson

Lesson time 16:45 min

Knowing what drives your audience can set you up for communication success. Neil reviews some of the key “tool belt items” he uses when speaking to groups.

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Topics include: Humor · Know What Drives Your Audience · Anatomy of a Sound Bite · Nonverbal Communication · Practice, Practice, Practice · Assessing Communication Success


- Quick joke. I got this from a friend of mine. In fact, he's called "The Science Comedian." It has to do with the Higgs boson. It's a science joke. Very important particle. The field that it creates endows particles that move through it with mass. It hands out mass to other-- that's a badass particle. Here's the joke. Higgs boson walks into a church, and the priest says, sorry, we don't allow Higgs bosons in church. And the Higgs boson says, but without me, you can't have mass. That's good. [MUSIC PLAYING] Humor matters. I think people like smiling. They like laughing even more. If you can get them to do that while they're learning, you've got it. You can feed them everything. You can use that as an excuse to communicate something that's harder than what you would otherwise attempt, because they're right there with 100% of their attention span. And that's why humor is a fundamental part of how I communicate. I will throw in a joke. I'll just throw in something that's a humorous observation of the world. And I know it's funny because it's battle-tested, right? If people don't laugh, or if their laughing is low, I'm saying, ooh, I don't have them. I say, OK, I have to wrap this up. And I'll put a little more energy in the presentation. For me, the more potent humor, the more useful humor, is the humorous observations of things we all know but never thought about it in quite that way. By the way, any great artist does this. They take something you're familiar with and remind you of how special it actually is. That is an artist at their best, showing us the world that we've forgotten to notice, having us become aware of things that are hidden in plain sight. What I want someone at the end of a presentation that I give-- even if it's just in an audience, a small audience at a cocktail party-- you want them at the end to say, I enjoy learning from you. Not, well, you had some interesting things to say, and those jokes were funny. No. I'd take that over nothing, but I'd rather they were blended together. [MUSIC PLAYING] I was once invited to give a commencement speech-- college commencement. And it's the most dreaded part of the ceremony. And usually, the speaker drones on. And so I walk into that already with the deck stacked against me. But I remember a conversation I had with the commencement organizer. And I said, how much time have you allocated for the commencement speech? And they said, 10 minutes, tops. And I said, why 10 minutes, tops? Is it because the schedule is tight and you can't fit everything in? Oh, no, no, they're not gonna listen to you beyond 10 minutes. So when she said "tops," she's saying, oh, you're just gonna give another one of these boring commencement speeches, and I don't want you to embarrass yourself or those attending. And I thought to myself, is-- I don't know how long my commencement speech will last, because I have to put it together. But if it goes beyond 10 mi...

About the Instructor

With a hit talk show and bestselling books, Neil deGrasse Tyson is one of the most popular figures in modern science. Now the influential astrophysicist teaches you how his mind works and how he connects with audiences. Learn to think like a skeptic, open your own mind through scientific literacy, distill data, and navigate bias to discover objective truths—and deliver your ideas in ways that engage, excite, and inspire.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

Neil deGrasse Tyson

Renowned astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson teaches you how to find objective truths and shares his tools for communicating what you discover.

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