Present your research with confidence

Mathew Schofield, winner of the University of Birmingham 3MT 2016, presenting at the final.

An important part of the research process is communicating and disseminating your work.  There’s no point in doing the research in the first place if no-one gets to hear about what you’ve discovered.  One key route for dissemination is in writing, but equally as important is communication through oral presentation.  Oral presentation has a key advantage in that it allows immediate dialogue with your audience, enabling dynamic knowledge exchange and debate which will ultimately benefit your research.

Everyone feels apprehensive about the prospect of presenting their research in front of an audience, but it’s important to focus on the exciting opportunity you’ve been offered to share your research and discuss it with interested people.  Remembering why you signed up to present in the first place is helpful in overcoming your nerves, as well as helping you prepare a successful presentation; clarity about your central message and the nature of your audience will help you focus on what really needs to be said and how.

If you’re not yet confident in your presentation skills, there are workshops and resources available to introduce you to the basics and help you prepare a presentation:

Once you have prepared your presentation, practice can increase your confidence in delivering what you have prepared, but you may still have concerns about questions and discussion.  Certainly you can think about likely questions you might expect, or ask your supervisor or colleagues, and prepare answers to those, but it’s quite likely that you’ll get a question you didn’t think of.  The key thing to remember at this point is that you are in charge, and you know your research better than anyone.  Always repeat questions back to ensure you have understood and give yourself some thinking time, and don’t be afraid to ask the questionner to speak to you individually later on.

Unfortunately, the only guaranteed way to increase your confidence in presenting and discussing your research is to do it.  It’s always a good idea to ask friends and/or colleagues if they are willing to listen to your presentation and give feedback, but there are also lots of opportunities for you to practice at the University of Birmingham, from small, informal gatherings of your peers to university-wide competitions.  These opportunities are provided to ensure you are on top form in advance of presenting at a conference or for a job interview.

What are your main concerns about delivering a presentation?  Have you presented your research to your peers or at a conference?  Share your experience below.

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Helen Kara

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