Discovery Talks: Infectious Diseases Institute Trains Researchers to Give Educational, TED-Style Talks in the Community

By Jaya Adkins
Outreach and Engagement Communications Intern

Discovery Talks Group

Participants from the 2016 Discovery Talks speakers' class. Included in back left is speaker coach, Ruth Milligan, front left program coordinator, Robyn Kroeger, and back third left, Infectious Diseases Institute Director, Mike Oglesbee.

The room is quiet as Dr. Debbie Goff recounts the story of an antibiotic prescription gone wrong. A 35-year-old mother of two dies from C. difficile diarrhea, after being prescribed a 10-day course of antibiotics following an appendectomy, “just in case” there might be an infection. The cause? Unnecessarily being prescribed antibiotics in the event it would be needed—not because it was needed. Dr. Goff goes on to share her findings in the misuse of antibiotics and prevention efforts to avoid the abuse and overuse of antibiotics in the future.

Dr. Goff is not the only one presenting that day. Eight other researchers share insights in their specific study of infectious diseases. The topics are varied, each focusing on the individual research efforts of that participant. What they have in common is that all speakers have completed the final leg of their Discovery Talks speaker coaching. As of now, they are officially members of the program’s speakers’ bureau and can present their talks at various events in the Columbus area.

Discovery Talks is a program created by Ohio State’s Infectious Diseases Institute (IDI), with a focus on disseminating results of research by faculty, students and staff on infectious diseases to the public using a TED talk-style approach.

Program Coordinator Robyn Kroeger said the Discovery Talks initiative started only three years ago after the team saw a similar program conducted by Ohio State’s Center for Clinical and Translational Science. Their goal is to further develop faculty and graduate students’ communication skills and aid in leadership and career development.

IDI Director Mike Oglesbee believes that the program’s emphasis on TED-style training has already had a profound impact on the way traditional scientific presentations and lectures are being delivered within the institute.

“The shift away from a data-driven approach to one that is the optimal balance of data, concept and storytelling, makes it possible to better connect with subject matter experts, students and the general public as a whole,” explained Oglesbee.

 Debbie Goff gives a Discovery Talk

Dr. Debbie Goff delivering her talk on the misuse of antibiotics and the need for individuals to become “antibiotic stewards” to prevent health risks attributed to overuse of antibiotics.

How it Works

The Discovery Talks process is two-fold. To become a part of the program’s speakers’ bureau, faculty must enroll in a training course to learn the TED-style speaking approach. In order to complete the course, participants must deliver their final ten-minute talk, which is recorded to share online and help build that presenter’s portfolio. After this is done, participants join the speakers’ bureau and can be hired for free to deliver their talk at various events or meetings in the Columbus area.

“Videos of the initial talks can help secure speaking engagements. We use the videos to market them externally as well as internally to identify speaking engagements,” Kroeger explained.

Faculty are coached by Ruth Milligan, founder and principal of the external speech-coach organization, Articulation Inc. Milligan served as one of the original curators for TEDx events and is currently the curator for TEDx Columbus. Graduate students are coached by undergraduate members of TEDx Ohio State University.

“At least one speaker from the past two faculty participant classes has gone on to speak at TEDx Columbus. This has been one measure of success for our program,” said Kroeger.

Another benefit of Discovery Talks is the potential for new research partnerships.

“Other researchers can see participant talks and notice how it might relate to their work,” explained Kroeger. “We have already seen examples of these partnerships with our program.  One of our speakers talked about how somebody from another university has seen her talk and has asked to use her talk in educational videos for their staff.”

Goff first started off taking the Discovery Talks course. Her success in the program led her to present at TEDx Columbus. Now, her emails are flooded with fan mail from those who viewed her talk online.

“There is a 6th grader in the UK that follows me on Twitter and has recently published an illustrated book on superbugs and antibiotics to educate children her age…She asked me to help her spread the word,” writes Goff.  

Since its founding, Discovery Talks have generated a lot of interest in the medical community at Ohio State. Going forward the program hopes to attract audiences from a variety of different fields at the university, including members from the surrounding Columbus communities.

“We would like to put more focus on the culmination of the talk and increase the reach of the final event,” said Kroeger.

Participants from this year’s class will deliver their talks on Friday, May 18 at the Biomedical Research Tower on Ohio State’s campus. This event is open to the public.

For more information on Discovery Talks and to watch past participants’ talks, please visit https://idi.osu.edu/resources/discovery-talks.