Loved by audiences across Canada for making complex scientific issues understandable, meaningful, and fun, Bob McDonald is in high demand. A fixture in broadcasting for more than 30 years, he is currently the host of CBC Radio’s Quirks & Quarks–the award-winning science program that is heard by 500,000 people each week–and is the author of numerous bestselling books. We’re thrilled to put Bob in our spotlight:
What inspired you to want to be a speaker?
I’ve been on stages since grade school, singing, dancing, performing in plays. That continued on stages and in theatres at the Ontario Science Centre, then on radio and television, so it was a natural progression to become a speaker.
Any advice for aspiring speakers?
Don’t read your speech. Speak freely and from the heart. The words will take care of themselves.
What do you like to leave audiences with?
I want audiences to feel a sense of wonder about our universe, the power of science to appreciate it, and how privileged we are to live on this precious and rare little planet.
How do you prepare before a talk? Any special rituals? A good luck talisman?
I prepare my slides, which are images only, no words on the screen. They form a flow of thought. Before taking to the stage, I think about my opening words to the particular audience and that flow of thought. Sometimes I will write a few key words on a napkin but they are just a mental rehearsal. I never use notes.
Do you have an especially memorable event you can tell us about?
Hosting the 50th anniversary of Canada in Space introduced me to the original pioneers who built Allouette One, our first satellite that was launched in 1962, making Canada the third country in space.
Any funny or embarrassing situations you found yourself in as a speaker?
My event to university students was held in an atrium with huge windows that allowed the sun to shine directly on the screen, making my slides totally useless. I had to improvise a speech about the values of science using my body and volunteers from the audience. Turned out to be one of the best speeches I ever gave.
Is there a charitable cause that you feel passionate about? Why?
All charities are worthwhile.
If you had to choose a new career, what would it be?
If I could, I would be an astronaut. Still working on becoming a space tourist.
Desert island artist?
Last book you read?
I read science books throughout the year for my job, during the summer I read science fiction and trashy, escapist spy novels.
Last film you saw?
Catherine Zeta Jones.