Opening Doors

This morning our LERU Summer School began with over 50 doctoral researchers from across European institutions coming together with a shared enthusiasm for collaboration. Our week will be spent learning about working together by working together – the group will co-author a guide to research collaboration aimed at their peers.

As with many of the collaborative events I run, we started with a round of brief introductions. Each researcher had one minute and one slide to give us a sense of their research and themselves. The quality of presentations was very high and once or twice I forgot to keep track of time because I was so interested in their work. There was huge diversity in the group in research terms with arts, humanities, social science, life science, physical sciences, engineering, clinical sciences and most things in between appearing.

Once the introductions were complete, we reflected as a group about the importance of these first impressions. In small groups the researchers thought about what they had seen and whether they would do anything differently the next time they have the chance to introduce themselves to a group of people open to collaboration.

Using Slido, we gathered these reflections. Here are the top suggestions to introducing yourself and your research to a mixed audience.

  1. Focus less on the details of your research and emphasise on the nature of collaboration you are looking for to attract the right people.
  2. Interact with the audience; ask questions or tell jokes or get them to stand up.
  3. Be personable and enthusiastic – it’s contagious if you convey how interesting you find your work.
  4. Find something that everybody can relate to and start with this.
  5. Don’t use jargon!
  6. Talk about the skills you have as these may be valuable for other projects or ideas.
  7. Design simple visuals, but invest time in them so they are clear, appealing to look at and explain your work to a broad audience.
  8. Be concise in what you say and what is on the slides. Too much text or details are distracting especially if they are inconsistent with what you’re saying.
  9. Be open-minded about who is listening as you might find collaborations in unexpected places – don’t close down possibilities with assumptions about who will or won’t be interested.
  10. Imagine you’re explaining your research to someone on the bus, who’s getting off at the next stop.
  11. Encourage your audience to act at the end by asking for questions, ideas or collaborations.
  12. Use themes to interest people from adjacent fields.
  13. Mentioning topics you are interested in. Research can be very specific and it can be hard to extrapolate the research project to wider skill areas or interests if these aren’t highlighted.
  14. People are interested in people, so share a personal moment with something about yourself; a joke, or being really passionate, or a little fact eg “I can’t draw!”; “I won the three minute thesis!”; “I’m excited to X!”
  15. Think about what you want to achieve with your introduction and design it with this end in mind. What do they need to know to take the action you want them to?
  16. Using keywords (such as data mining etc.) to help others connect to you and remember you faster
  17. Practice your introduction with people from other fields so they can help you see what might spark an idea in someone else.
  18. Keep in mind the impact of what you do and why you do it instead of technical details about how you do it.
  19. Have a few versions ready so you can adapt your introduction to the public and the room if you learn more about them before you present.
  20. Use your slide as a visual aid – design it to reinforce the key points you want people to remember.

It took our LERU researchers less than 15 minutes to come up with this list. If you start to observe good (and poor) practice the next time you see someone present their work, you’ll quickly develop your own set of useful rules.

With thanks to our LERU researchers who are working together this week on the Building Research Capacity and a Collaborative Global Community Summer School.

(Image by aitoff from Pixabay )

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