As a researcher, you need to be able to communicate effectively with many different groups of people that you meet during your career: financiers, entrepreneurs, school students, politicians, journalists and – not least – other researchers. Being able to explain your research in a simple and easy to understand way increases your chances of starting a dialogue with these different groups.
Hear the finalists from 2018 talk about their experience of participating in Researchers’ Grand Prix (Swedish).
The goal here is not to tell people everything about your research, but to spike their curiosity enough as to motivate them to ask questions. This will open up a conversation where you can build on your ideas with more complexity based on their interests. In this way you get feedback on your research, you find new questions that you may not have thought of before. You are forced to think about what is at the core of your research which will lead to higher quality science in the future!
By signing up for Researchers’ Grand Prix you will get help and advice on how to produce a 4-minute presentation about your research and an opportunity to practice on stage in front of a live audience.
How should I create my presentation?
You have to design the presentation on your own. You will get help and feedback from professional coaches – communicators, actors, rhetoric experts – but you are responsible for the content and must be able to stand behind your words. Expect that it will take long time to prepare the presentation. It often takes longer to prepare a brief talk than it does to produce an hour-long lecture.
”It is good to showcase a variety of physical objects, such as different types of materials that I have been able to develop based upon my research. Then the audience sees what they actually look like and your research becomes more than just an idea.”
Sunil Kumar Ramamoorthy – winner of the Researchers’ Grand Prix 2015
The timing of the presentations in the competition will be strict and you need to practice a lot to ensure that you can stay on time. Write a script (NB! write how you intend to speak!) and keep to it. This does not mean that you should read from the script, but it will be much easier to change the presentation if you have a comprehensive plan of what you want to say. It is also good if you practice your presentation as much as possible in front of people who are not your research colleagues. Ask them to give feedback on your presentation. Then you get a good idea of how much they have understood.
There are many ways to design a good presentation. Here are some basic questions you can start with:
- What is the most important thing that I want the audience to remember about my research?
- What problem does my research attempt to solve?
- Who is impacted by my research?
When you think of the audience, imagine a 17 years old high school student. This should help you to find language level that most people in the audience will understand.
When it comes to structuring the presentation, it is important to immediately capture the audience’s attention. It is about finding something that everyone can relate to, a good question, a phrase that surprises the audience or a word that rouses curiosity. Introductions such as ”Have you thought of …?”, ”Have you wondered why …?” can cause people to pay attention. Then you can start the talk about your research: results, problems and questions, and methodology (in roughly that order!)
- Talk in the first person perspective, ”I” rather than ”we” or ”my group.” The audience is interested in you and what YOU have done. Instead, you can say: ”My colleagues and I”.
- Avoid the jargon! Often there are other words that you can use to describe what you are doing. You could possibly have time to explain ONE special term if it is necessary to understand your research.
- Feel free to use stories and anecdotes to put your research into context.
Dare to make it personal! Do you have any special talents, special interests or a hobby that could be usefully incorporate into the presentation? Can you use what you wear or a special attribute? The audience wants to see your personality shine through in the presentation.
Other things to think about
- Use images and text sparingly. Use high-quality photographs and illustrations to make associations rather than lots of pictures and text. Keep in mind that all images used must be copyright free.
- To get feedback, feel free to test the presentation on family, friends and colleagues from other research areas. This way, it will become obvious what works and what does not. The more you practice your presentation, the better it will become.
- Sometimes research can contain sensitive subjects and words. It is difficult to give general advice, but avoid particularly charged terms.