Paul McCrory – HOOK training

Paul McCrory


Paul McCrory

Paul McCrory has spent over 20 years working as an informal educator and trainer.

The beginning

Paul started by presenting interactive shows and workshops in science centres (Techniquest, Cardiff and W5, Belfast) and his own successful outreach organisation (learn differently ltd).

This background has given him a wealth of experience in engaging a wide range of audiences in accessible and interesting ways. He's presented demos in all sorts of settings from museums to a muddy field, from school halls to an airport security queue and from theatres to a wedding in Geneva.

Paul is a totally rare breed: practitioner, philosopher and teacher all in one. Nothing exists in his performance without solid educational and theatrical understanding driving it.

What sets him even further apart from other science communicators is his training skill. Not only does he show how to do it and know why he’s doing it, he brings the same ability and understanding out in others. His technique is akin to watching a Zen master. First he relaxes students into a joyful state then zaps them into deeper understanding with some precise and unforgettable aphorism.

Tom Pringle
(aka Dr Bunhead)


The live training years

Latterly, his work mainly involved training other science educators in the UK, Ireland and internationally, including the Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden, Finland and the UAE.

Here's a small sample of the organisations Paul's been fortunate enough to work with in a speaking, training or consultancy role:

Abu Dhabi Science Festival

British Antarctic Survey

Edinburgh International Science Festival

EPSRC

The Francis Crick Institute

Greg Foot

LIFE science centre, Newcastle

Queen's University, Belfast

Science Foundation Ireland

Science Made Simple

Sheffield Hallam University

STEM Learning

The Royal Institution

Titanic Belfast

University of Eastern Finland

Uppsala University

Wellcome Trust

The pivot

At the start of 2020 - little knowing what was about to befall the world - he rebranded his company as HOOK training ltd and moved away from delivering live speaking and training to writing books and online training resources in order to reach as many informal educators as possible. This was motivated by both environmental and efficiency reasons. Paper and electricity travel better than people.

Also, although Paul's background is in science education (he has a BSc in physics and mathematics, an MSc in science communication, a PGCE in secondary education and a PhD in how science teachers can create interest through their delivery), the principles underlying how to engage learners are universal. So, he now plans to support informal educators working in any subject. 

In July 2021 he published a book that gathered together some of the hundreds of engagement techniques that effective informal educators use in their interactive presentations, Hook Your Audience - how educational presenters can captivate their learners using performance techniques.

The curious backstory ...

If you were reading all this stuff about performing skills and thinking to yourself, "but I'm not a natural performer", it might help to know that neither am I.

You see, I'm an extreme introvert.

Worse, I'm an extreme introvert who runs a mile from most social situations, let alone putting myself in any sort of public spotlight.

Whenever I bump into someone who hasn't seen me since I was growing up and I try to explain my job, the response I encounter is usually along the lines of,

"You! You train people to give more interesting presentations? Really? C'mon."

I don't think they are trying to be offensive. πŸ™‚

They're just baffled. On the surface, my career doesn't seem to make sense for someone like me. Yet I'm able to present topics I care about to audiences of hundreds without giving it a second thought.

I first noticed this paradox as a child who was obsessed with magic. I was driven by a love of wonder and my desire for audiences to experience the intense emotions I felt on encountering magic. When I combined this deep need to share with some basic performing techniques, I discovered I was able to overcome my introversion and shyness, one show at a time.

It turned out that these same engagement hooks also allowed me to share my passion for science as an informal educator. These techniques didn't turn me into a different person - they just enabled me to "turn up" or "turn down" certain of my character traits for the duration of the presentation.

As a trainer I realised that if these performing techniques could help someone as introverted and socially awkward as me, then they might also be able to help other educators.

Paul McCrory is one of the UK’s leading science communicators. He has an enviable track record and always delivers a high quality product.

Ian Simmons
Science Centres International


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