Like millions of others, I watched in fascination as Commander Chris Hadfield and his crew on the International Space Station returned to earth this week after five months in space.

Living and working aboard the Space Station for five months is an impressive and taxing feat, but I’ve been even more impressed by Chris Hadfield’s command of public engagement.

On this mission, Commander Hadfield embraced the opportunity to reach out to the world, the global community, and share with them what life in space is like. Never before have we been given such access to the astronaut experience and not since the lunar landing in 1969 has our collective attention been riveted to an ongoing space mission.

Hadfield has an extraordinary capacity for communication. And he’s a pretty darn good musician. But I believe that his success in engaging all of us in his mission comes down to his authentic desire to connect — with everyone. He’s redefined “global public engagement” through his series of informative and entertaining videos from space, his spectacular photography and through his insights and inspirations tweeted to an impressive 915,000 followers.

Those of us working in public engagement can learn a lot from Commander Hadfield. He demonstrated key elements in creating and maximizing a positive public engagement experience:

  • Understand your project and be able to speak about it with knowledge and passion
  • Convey your vision with easy to understand language
  • Be passionate and invite people to share your passion
  • Be your authentic self and bring every relevant talent to your communication tool kit
  • Tell good stories with personal insights that help your audience relate more personally to your project
  • Respect your audience and give them credit for understanding complex information
  • Use consistent tools and messages (social media, video, web)
  • Take advantage of every opportunity to connect
  • Inspire and invite your audience to get involved, and if they do, deliver on it (Hadfield conducted citizen-suggested experiments in space)
  • Connect and engage with your audience on a regular basis
  • Encourage dialogue and inspire people to bring their best selves to the discussion
  • Get creative — leverage the potential of your project to engage, inform and inspire

Chris Hadfield brought a true global perspective to his mission aboard the International Space Station. He provided us with an important reminder that we are all part of a global community. And he reminded us that we now have the tools to connect as a community around the globe and even from space.

Thanks Commander Hadfield for reminding us of what’s possible and for demonstrating extraordinary communication, creativity and connection with humanity. I hope everyone you connected with continues to live your lessons.

~ Maureen Douglas, CPF-IAF. Mo writes, consults and speaks about the power of positive public, workplace and team engagement. Click here for Mo’s FREE e-Guide to Better Public Engagement. Follow her on Twitter.