Public Engagement Masterclass

Training Academics How to Plan, Pitch and Write Stories for Non-Expert Audiences

Do you know how to tailor and target your work to gain the attention of people beyond your own peers – including politicians, the media, industry, and funding assessors? Can you write about your research in a clear, concise and compelling way?

Learn how to pitch, plan and write with greater impact through a day of tailored training with Liz Minchin, an award-winning journalist and Senior Editor at The Conversation. This practical workshop is designed for academics at all levels, from early career researchers to senior leaders.

The training can be delivered on-site around Australia by request for your institution, or at the University of Melbourne's Centre for the Study of Higher Education.

To ensure individual attention, each session is limited to 20 participants. The training is designed around each group’s experience, knowledge and needs. Before each session, participants are briefly surveyed on the key things they hope to achieve, and asked to submit a short summary or “pitch” about their work that will be developed in the masterclass.

Highlights include:

  • Discovering tips from a former Australian Research Council Executive Director on how not to kill your chances of winning a grant; 
  • Receiving personalised feedback on your work; and
  • Learning a time-saving method to assess and improve your own work.

By the end of the day, you’ll leave with the skills to dramatically improve your chances of attracting more positive attention for your work, whether that's in important grant applications or by having your work published in a wide variety of non-academic media outlets.

The Public Engagement Masterclass is a joint initiative of The Conversation and the Melbourne Centre for the Study of Higher Education at the University of Melbourne.

Fees for on-site training

We offer regular masterclasses around Australia as an on-site training session at a discounted rate for member organisations of The Conversation (this covers the vast majority of Australian universities, as well as the CSIRO and other research organisations and more – see the full list here).

The minimum number of participants in a session is 10, and the maximum is 20. It can be tailored to suit all levels of experience: from PhD students & early career researchers to experienced communicators and senior leaders.

When holding training on-site, we ask the host institute to organise the venue (usually a computer lab or board room) and catering, as well as covering the cost of return economy travel, in return for an extra discount for attendees.

Fees per participant

  • AU$995 per person inc. GST for the first 10 participants from a member of The Conversation.
  • AU$500 per person inc. GST for up to 10 additional participants, extra on-site discounted rate.

We also run this training for non-members by request, but at a higher commercial rate. Quotes for non-member organisations of The Conversation are available on request via the contacts below.

Fees for sessions held at the University of Melbourne

Testimonials from Past Participants

“This masterclass is the cornerstone of our academic professional development program. From professors to doctorate candidates, each participated with interest. For some, the critical analysis process will define their access to readers and ultimately, funders.” – QUT Corporate Communications Coordinator, Science & Engineering Faculty, Ann McLean.

“After your workshop I have a better understanding of the relationships between good journalism and good grant applications.” – CDU Pro-Vice Chancellor Research & Research Training, Professor Lawrence Cram.

“Very informative. Increased my confidence and motivation to get my work published outside research journals.”
“I found it to be excellent and I took away many 'gems'.”
“Liz is a terrific communicator and teacher.”
“Well-structured and engaging with a good balance of presentation and interaction. I have a much stronger understanding of how to write a successful pitch.”

More information

Dr Sarah French
Project Manager, Melbourne Centre for the Study of Higher Education
T: 03 8344 8085

Liz Minchin
Senior Editor, The Conversation
T: 0404 032 907

Program schedule

9.00-10am Examples of why short, sharp storytelling is crucial – including tips from a former Australian Research Council Executive Director.
Plus introductions & group Q&A
Why you need to be to communicate with “non-experts” – meaning everyone from the general public to politicians, journalists & business leaders, through to grant reviewers outside your field. And Australia’s incoming ‘impact agenda’ means this now matters more than ever. See real examples of positive academic impacts due to good communication: from briefing the Prime Minister & Senate inquiries, to promotions, book deals & informing the United Nations.
10-10.30am Before & after: examples of getting better at pitching with practiceLessons from past participants, who used this training to go from having never pitched their work to being successfully published in The Conversation & beyond.
10.30 – 11.00amMorning teaInformal discussion of what’s been covered so far.
11.00am – 12.30pmThe ABC of constructive feedback & highlighting the strongest participant pitchesHow to apply a method used by ABC presenters & producers to get better at storytelling. Feedback on the best pitches (submitted before the workshop).
12.30 – 1.00pm Lunch  
1.00 – 1.45pm Summary of key tips & time to develop pitches, in pairs or individuallyWith guidance from Liz, participants will work on improving their original pitch.
1.45 – 3.30pm Group feedback, final discussion & evaluation All participants can share their pitch with the group and receive feedback on their story and chosen audience. Participants can choose to leave from 3.30pm.
3.30-4.30pm Individual feedback One-on-one feedback with Liz.

About the presenter and The Conversation

The training is run by Liz Minchin,a Walkley award-winning journalist and author, with two decades of experience in newspapers, radio and online. Liz was a reporter and news editor at The Age newspaper for a decade, before working as an executive media trainer and an ABC producer. In 2010, Liz co-authored a book with a scientist on serious solutions to climate change (called Screw Light Bulbs). She is currently Senior Editor of The Conversation.

The Conversation is a public-good journalism project helping researchers share their knowledge with millions of readers worldwide (35 million article views in a month, as of March 2016). Its readers include Nobel laureates, school students, business leaders, prime ministers & presidents. Launched from Australia in 2011, it has grown into a global knowledge network, with websites based in the UK, US, sub-Saharan Africa, France, and now The Conversation Global.