Mark Bayer | How to Communicate Complexity

Mark Bayer is the President of Bayer Strategic Consulting, a specialized training and advocacy firm in the Washington DC area. He’s a former US Senate Chief of Staff and self-professed persuasion nerd teaching scientists and engineers to effectively communicate the real world value of their work to their most important stakeholders in jargon-free and engaging terms that get results. 

Mark is also the host of the When Science Speaks Podcast, a weekly podcast for scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs who want to make an impact. He’s an international keynote speaker, workshop presenter, online course developer, and consultant, and he has over 20 years of experience on Capitol Hill. 

In this episode, John Corcoran shares a recording of a live interview he did with Mark Bayer. They talk about why it’s important for scientists to communicate complex scientific topics in a way that makes it easier for the general public to understand, how to better engage your audience as a scientist, and how Mark empowers scientists to have their voices heard at the highest levels.

Available_Black copy
Available_Black copy
Available_Black copy

Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Learn:

  • Why Mark Bayer decided to start a science-related podcast
  • How seriously science is taken these days and why it’s important for scientists to give value to effective communication
  • Mark shares how NASA used emotions to tell a compelling and relatable story about a rover on Mars 
  • How Mark helps scientists use tools other than data, logic, and stats to communicate
  • The importance of connecting with people before communicating with them
  • How Mark gauges his audience’s technical knowledge level

Resources Mentioned:

Sponsor: Rise25

Today’s episode is sponsored by Rise25 Media, where our mission is to connect you with your best referral partners, clients, and strategic partners. We do this through our done for you podcast solution and content marketing. 

Along with my business partner Dr. Jeremy Weisz, we have over 18 years of experience with B2B podcasting, which is one of the best things you can do for your business and you personally. 

If you do it right, a podcast is like a “Swiss Army Knife” – it is a tool that accomplishes many things at once. It can and will lead to great ROI, great clients, referrals, strategic partnerships, and more. It is networking and business development; and it is personal and professional development which doubles as content marketing

A podcast is the highest and best use of your time and will save you time by connecting you to higher caliber people to uplevel your network. 

To learn more, go to or email us at [email protected]

To learn more, book a call with us here

Check out Rise25 to learn more about our done-for-you lead generation and done-for-you podcast services. 

Right Click here to download the MP3

Click here to subscribe via iTunes

Advertise on the Smart Business Revolution Podcast

Episode Transcript

John Corcoran  00:40

All right, this is John Corcoran here with Mark Bayer. Mark, I’m very excited to have you here. We’re going to get started. And thanks everyone for being here. So, you know, I’m the host the smart business revolution podcast where I talk with CEOs, founders and entrepreneurs of companies and organizations like YPO eo Activision Blizzard, which is the world’s largest Video game company lending tree Open Table x software and many more. Also the co-founder of rice 25, where we help connect b2b business owners to their ideal prospects. And I’m very excited today because my good friend Mark bears here. He’s my guest. He’s the president of Bayer strategic consulting and the wind sign speaks podcast. Bayer strategic consulting is specialized training in advocacy from the Washington DC area. He’s a former US Senate chief of staff and self-professed persuasion nerd teaching scientists and engineers who effectively communicate the real world value of the work to their most important stakeholders in jargon free engaging terms that get results.

He’s also the host of the weekly when sign speaks podcast. He’s an international keynote speaker workshop presenter online course developer and consultant and has nearly 20 years of experience or over 20 years of experience on Capitol Hill. related to all of this and of course, Mark, we’ve been working together for a while we helped you to set up your podcasts and but We take credit for such a small piece of it because you’ve done an amazing job of really establishing yourself as really the, the thought leader in this area of helping scientists and helping technical folk to communicate more effectively. So let’s just start right there. You know, you’re a former US Senate Chief of Staff, why did you decide to start a science-related podcast and then we’re going to get into the topic here, which is how to communicate complexity in a simple way.

Mark Bayer  02:30

Sure. And John, thank you so much. I mean, you and Jeremy Rise25 and been fantastic and I love doing the podcast, getting a chance to talk to a lot of people who are much smarter than I am. And but I’ll tell you just briefly, I got into this because I wanted to empower scientists to have their voice heard, you know, kind of at the highest levels, whether it’s policymaking in the investor community, with the public, you know, I really kind of feel that expertise and facts and evidence, all the things that we built Are policy on Capitol Hill are in this environment being sidelined? In scientists, scientific boards are being disbanded, scientists are being completely marginalized from the policymaking process and healthcare environment, all the things I care so much about and that he works so hard on, you know, during my time on Capitol Hill, and I thought, you know, I had some skills, some Insider, you know, specific skills that I could teach to scientists and, you know, after the 2015 election, it seemed like scientists were really interested in getting more involved in policy and getting, you know, increasing their influence beyond the academy beyond the university setting.

John Corcoran  03:41

There’s a lot of talk of that, that, you know, the scientific method was under attack or that it was the whole talk of, you know, fake news and alternative facts and all those that are kind of, you know, phrases have entered the whole national dialogue, the Zeitgeist So talk a little bit about where we are, is we’re in the beginning of 2020. What is the feeling these days in terms of how seriously science is taken and how scientists need to communicate to be effective today?

Mark Bayer  04:17

Yeah, I mean, just taking the last piece, you know, I think there is this acceleration of interest in the scientific community, whether we’re talking about social scientists, we’re talking about natural scientists, also engineers as well, you know, technical professionals, interest in an understanding and a really drive to get more involved in making decisions that impact all of us. So whether it’s, you know, what’s the safe level of mercury in water, you know, it should be done by the science by the, you know, proven evidence, in fact, built up over time that, that scientists have contributed, it shouldn’t be driven, in my view, by audio ideology or anecdote or, you know, kind of conflicts of interest. These are things that have Life and Death consequences for us not to be too dramatic, but I mean, these are things that amount of pollution, the air and so forth, that scientists have been studying and they continue to study. And I want to make sure that the best facts that can come out of the scientific community actually kind of returned to become much more prominent, again, in deciding, you know, EPA, or, you know, department health cream services, deciding, you know, what are the safe levels, you know, for example, so I think scientists and people who are working in that area, engineers and so forth, are getting more involved and want to get more involved and kind of pushing back to get to your first party question on these alternative facts, so to speak. So that’s kind of a passion project of mine, and I do a lot of talking, I’ve written about it, wrote a piece, have talked about it the triple conference, his article in Science magazine about my talk, and, and I put some comments in the New Yorker magazine that they printed about, you know, how do you combat it? alternative facts. And you know, what are they really obviously they’re not true. We all know that. I’m not really interested in what you want to call them my interest lies in how do you push back and combat them and get, you know, get get get the actual, you know, facts out there, whether it’s regarding vaccines, whether it’s global warming, you know, whether, you know, it’s GMOs, any anything else where there’s just a lot of demagoguery and out there, how do you confront that? Or should you and this is how I, you know, when I go when I talk at universities and so forth, it’s a popular topic because, you know, truth and evidence and discovery is really kind of the oxygen that fuels our economy in many ways. And, and if that’s no longer important, then scientists and others who spend their lives you know, trying to discover and establish new facts, you know, it’s it puts them in a very, very difficult position.

John Corcoran  06:57

Now, Paulina, Mason or Masson post So the question here she asks, do you have a background in science? What made you choose this niche? Which I think you addressed a little bit already, but any further thoughts on that?

Mark Bayer  07:08

Sure. I love that question so much. My last science class was AP Biology, in high school in France at Framingham North High School outside of Boston. I always kind of add when I’m talking to scientists that I got a five on the AP exam, so I’m not a complete idiot, but really was See you later. See you later science for me after that, um, because I had to work really hard to do about 80% 90% as well as people who are really gifted in that area. My background kind of in science is more rooted in the policy making where when I worked on Capitol Hill for about 20 years, all told in the house, and in the Senate, as you mentioned, we always had scientists from triple A s experts, PhDs and so forth, who were literally sitting side by side with us as we were developing policy and I had tremendous respect for them and really believed that we needed to rely on facts and evidence into digging until we really got to the root of you know, and that was the foundation of all the policy that we did. So my kind of experience with scientists and respect for scientists comes in that policy environment. And then after I left the hill, I did a workshop in a workshop and talk for triple A S. And I, you know, I go to universities, you know, across the country, and talk to PhDs and postdocs about their work and also how they can translate their work in an effective way and basically communicate their science to any audience whether you know, that’s their Grandma, their Grandpa, their cousin, or some, you know, some venture capitalist, some investor, to the media, you know, how can they get their voice heard in a way that’s accurate, but also really gets to the crux and the real world relevance of their work.

John Corcoran  08:57

I remember a while back, he posted something on LinkedIn, there was a Mars rover that got a lot of attention. That was, I think, was dying. Tell us that story in and also, why that story is was relevant for communicating complex topics effectively in today’s climate. Right. Right. It’s such

Mark Bayer  09:20

a such a really good question and example and there was so much response to that post and there was a lot of response to the initial thing, you know, that went out about this. So, you know, people I think, General, the general public had a sense, you know, NASA was exploring Mars and there was a, there’s a rover, there was a miniature vehicle out there sending back images and people were captivated see the surface of Mars, which was really mind-blowing. I have to say that NASA does a great job by the way when it comes to communicating technical topics. And so as time was going, you know, get going on the rover that had sent back on Have these very moving compelling pictures was running low on power, its battery was starting to die. And the thing about the atmosphere of Mars was that there are these storms that can completely obscure any kind of sunlight coming in because it’s battery being charged through a solar, you know, solar panels on the rover. And so there was a tweet that went out and actually, there’s a story behind that whole thing. But the bottom line was, there was a tweet that went out that basically said, you know, my battery’s low, and it’s getting dark and sad. And people all across the spectrum, you know, went and retweeted and commented and, and there was a lot of emotion. They were expressing his head like my you know, I’m a robot about a machine. Yeah, I’m bawling my eyes out here and you’re sad. And so we’re gonna come get you buddy. Like we’re gonna I mean, it really was all over and I probably Because it was a beautiful I posted because a beautiful example of using emotion to tell a story, everything you said was true. You know, it’s battery, powered by the sun, all those sorts of things. But the way it was described really was via another kind of channel that we as humans respond to. And that’s the emotional channel. You know, obviously, we’re not always making decisions on data. In fact, otherwise, we’d all have the same car be the same color, we just basically look down a checklist and say, Yep, it’s, uh, you know, if it’s got these features and functions, and then I want it, but obviously, you know, we’re moved by things that are well beyond the data, how things make us feel, and that really goes to the emotional aspect of it. So I love I posted it because I really loved the way people responded to that it was example for me to use as an illustration of, you can, of course, once you have that opening, you can start talking about the program to Mars, you can start talking about NASA’s other activities, you know, whether it’s the policymakers Have the general public and get them fired up. You’ve reached them. You’ve touched them in a way that now they’re open to more communication with you.

John Corcoran  12:07

Right right. Now Yana said of he is here. Hey, Yana, good to see you. She says my general experience is that people, even quite smart ones are not persuaded by data and logic deeply held beliefs need something else to be dislodged? How do you help scientists use tools other than data logic and stats?

Mark Bayer  12:26

I mean, that’s a great question comes right after we’re just talking about such a great question. Is, is this idea that I talked about, which is connect before you communicate? So before you even think about what you’re going to say, you really need to develop some kind of connection with whatever the audience whoever the audience’s that you’re talking about, and I teach a course, I do workshops on this, how do you develop that connection before the communication? And I would just say to this question, first of all, I think it’s great that you’re you’ve identified the fact It’s not just about the data. And Joe Hanson who I love has this great quote that data is a character in your story. But it’s not your entire story. So data is necessary, but it’s not sufficient. If you’re talking to maybe Mr. Spock, or someone, you know, who only makes decisions, what’s logical,

John Corcoran  13:20

you’re all maybe like, see threepio or so. Right? Yeah,

Mark Bayer  13:22

you know, you know, you just use the data. But we know that in the real world, that’s not how things work. So how do you bring that more emotional component in and for me, what I teach is you need to figure out how you can connect with whoever you’re talking to, before you even decide what your message is. And actually, through this connection process, you’re going to surface these similarities, shared values, and things like that, that you can weave into your description. And that will allow you both to kind of broadcast on the emotional kind of channel the connection channel, but also The fact different channel because you’re not everything you say needs to be accurate. But that’s not enough. Humans are complex to make decisions based on a lot of different factors, that many of which are not logical. So how are you going to do that? The good news is though you can you can learn these things. And it’s not manipulation. like to say it’s everything you’re using is completely accurate. It just it’s gone, it’s a level of sophistication that just you’re recognizing another element in the decision making process of a human being.

John Corcoran  14:29

We have one last question, and then we’ll wrap things up. But Pauline says again, how do you gauge your audience’s technical knowledge level? That’s a great question. How do you know, you know how much they know in terms of their technical knowledge?

Mark Bayer  14:43

Right, right. And that’s that I love it. There are different ways of doing that. Some are, you know, before I go and talk to a university or a company, you know, first of all, I talked to the organizer. And I and I say, you know, this is what I’m thinking, you know, what do you think? Would this be relevant? or not, you know, the group better than I do. That’s not always, you know, possible you could do that. And or you start following people on Twitter, look at the, you know, looked at LinkedIn, see what they’re posting. And the other thing you can do is, if you can’t do any of that, start your discussion with questions. Who here has ever seen whoever heard of this? You know, what if we could do this, like, who has any expert? And that serves a number of great purposes. One is to get to this question that you that you’ve raised here, which is how do I find out their level of knowledge? Who here has ever heard of, you know, who acts you know, thermonuclear, you know, whatever it is thermodynamic, the second law of thermodynamics. And, and then you can start engaging right away with your audience. And it’s sort of another thing to keep in mind is, I want you to think about doing a presentation, I think I want you to think about doing an engagement where it’s much more interactive. And through that interaction, you’re going to get a good understanding of the level of knowledge and also a level of interest.

John Corcoran  16:08

That’s right. That’s great, Mark. Well, we’ll wrap things up. And thanks so much for being here. Of course, this episode was brought to you by Rise25 media, which I co-founded with my business partner, Dr. Jeremy wise, where our mission is to connect you with your best referral partners and customers and strategic partners. And we do that through our done for you. podcast solution. I frankly, honestly believe if you have a business, you should have a podcast. I know Mark would agree one of the best thing that we both done, and it’s a privilege to be able to talk to smart people like Mark and others, which he’s doing as well through his podcast. So yeah, definitely consider it and if you want to learn more, you can rise 25 calm and if you want to learn more about mark, go to bear it’s up there on the screen. And Mark anywhere else people should connect to you here on LinkedIn Of course and Yeah,

Mark Bayer  16:57

well, I would just say my website right now. Now is the process of being revamped and refreshed and redone after about three years. So it’s still very much up, but the descriptions of what I do are dated. So I would encourage you just go to LinkedIn, send me a connection request. I’d love to begin the conversation.

John Corcoran  17:14

Excellent. All right. Thanks so much, Mark.