In the coming months the 3rd year doctoral students I’m working with at Oxford University’s Institute of Biomedical Engineering at the Centre for Doctoral Training will be giving presentations – either 3 minute posters or 10 minute outlines of their research at conferences. What do they hope to gain from the experience? They’ll be looking for:
- Collaborators to share data and intelligence
- People who are likely to cite them in their papers
- And especially, contact with decision makers such as Heads of Labs and clinicians with a view to impressing them into job offers or awarding funds for further research at a later date.
This is a valuable chance for them to influence the big hitters. They have the opportunity to create a positive first and lasting impression. They have a chance to meet with and impress influencers and opinion formers. It could have a life changing effect.
What are the problems they face? What are the hurdles that get in the way? What are the potential distractions that draw attention away from their presentation? Well, there may be:
- The other doctoral students who’re presenting their research. Sheer weight of numbers disengages an audience.
- Other researchers whose research is similar.
- Astonishingly, work! Sometimes you see a few open their laptops on the floor of the auditorium and get on their work with half an ear to the collection of presentations on the stage. Rather like watching TV.
- Especially, their own performance, particularly if anxiety gets in the way.
So how to stand out from the crowd whilst taming the nerves?
- Be clear about the outcome. Know where you want to get to.
- Pay attention to your audience. Make it your business to understand what they want to know. And tell them.
- Command their attention, right from the start.
- Keep it simple – 3 points is enough for you to be memorable.
- Demonstrate your expertise.
- Ask for what you want your audience to think, say, do.
- Give them a chance to ask questions. Show that you are available.
- Relax and enjoy yourself. Be passionate about your subject. Be inspirational.
And especially Keep to time. No one has ever complained about a speech being too short!