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Research communications with Ulster University

Researcher CC-BY Jim Sorenson

Ulster University is committed to research impact, and its reputation for research excellence has received global recognition. Ulster University wants to make sure its best research helps tackle the world’s biggest challenges, improves lives and changes outcomes. However, it can be difficult for researchers to explain complex theories and societal impact to a non-academic audience. For this reason, #UU Communicate was developed to encourage excellence in research communication. #UUCommunicate is an innovative programme, developed by researchers at Ulster University to to help make their research relatable to a non-academic audience.

research impact

Winner of #UUCommunicate Dr. Claire McCauley with Tim Brundle, Director of Research and Impact and Prof. Cathy Gormley-Heenan, PVC Research and Impact

Research communication competition

The #UUCommunicate programme was based on a university-wide competition. To enter, researchers developed a short video describing their work to an external, non-academic audience.  Bespoke Communications supported competition entrants with a programme of workshops and one-to-one coaching in research communications. The #UUCommunicate programme culminated in an Awards Ceremony, recognising excellence and honouring participants.

#UUCommunicate Programme outcomes

Commenting on the success of the #UUCommunicate, Tim Brundle Director of Research and Impact said ‘#UUCommunicate has been instrumental in helping us to develop a supportive culture of public engagement at Ulster University. With #UUCommunicate, we’ve given our research-active staff a communications toolkit to make their discipline accessible to non-academics’.

Here is the Ulster University Youtube channel where videos can be viewed, including the video from the #UUCommunicate winner, Dr. Claire McCauley.

 

 

 

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Lessons from TEDx – trust me, they’re not nerves that you’re feeling ….

David Meade TEDx

So the day of TEDx was upon us.  The sense of occasion in the great hall during the speakers breakfast was palpable.  There were twenty or so of us there ready to share our ideas. We were ushered into the senate chamber for a comprehensive briefing from the organisers and the production team.   It really did feel like being part of a television show which definitely added to the feeling of apprehension.

Approximately 30 minutes before I was due to go on, the organiser excitedly told  us that there were approximately 10,000 people watching via live stream online!  Until that point I didn’t even know there was going to be a live stream, never mind one with 10,000 people watching!

Talk about raising the nerves to an all time high!

One of the speakers, David Meade, is a household name in Northern Ireland and is the host of his own TV show.  Suddenly, David started saying how nervous he was getting. What did this mean for the rest of us, if the most experienced person among us was getting nervous?

I then had a quick chat with David that went something like this:

Me: “But hang on David, you’re on TV, you do stage shows and corporate events every day of the week –  how can you be nervous?”

David: “Nerves never leave you, they’re a good thing, they keep us in check and show us we care,. Nerves are good.  Do you know nervousness and excitement are very closely linked in the brain. So if you’re getting overly nervous just tell yourself you’re excited.”

I was very sceptical at this piece of wisdom but thought I would give it a try.  There I was backstage a few minutes later telling myself out loud:

“I am excited, I am excited, I am excited.”

I couldn’t believe it but it actually worked. The nerves subsided to a manageable level ,and I even felt my body language shift to being more upright and confident.   As you probably know, everything David Meade says is true!  But if you don’t believe him here’s more about the science of this idea by Harvard Business School.

I encourage you to give it a try, the next time you are about to give a speech or presentation find a quiet corner and say to yourself a few times over:

“I’m excited, I’m excited, I’m excited.”

Just see what happens!


Richard Wasson

Richard Wasson has sailed the world on exploration superyachts. He has many stories to tell from his years as captain and chief officer to the very rich and the very famous! Now officially retired from sea, his quest to help people be happier in their life and careers is ongoing. Watch Richard’s TEDx talk here.

“This post is the last in a series of three posts, where I share just some of the things I learnt from my TEDx experience. You can read the others here and here.”

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Does your audience listen when you speak?

presentation at meeting

You’ve been asked to give a presentation at your next staff meeting.  Do you think:

a) “I have so much to say, I just don’t know how I’m going to fit it into a five minute slot”

b) “My topic is really boring…. no-one is ever interested in what I have to say”

c) “I don’t even know where to start!”

We all want our audience to take our message on board when we speak.  After taking the first step and considering the needs of your audience, here’s a simple structure to help you to write your message so that they really listen to what you have to say.  We call it the SABA structure, and you’ll see it underpinning so many great talks and messages. In the post below, we’ve chosen two popular TED talks to highlight the use of the SABA structure.  Brené Brown’s widely-watched TED talk on the power of vulnerability  and Bryan Stevenson’s TED talk on racial inequality both follow SABA, whether they intended it or not!

 

S – Scene

First of all set the scene for your audience. You can’t assume that they know about your topic.   In a sales pitch, this might be as short as a single sentence, explaining the need for your proposal. In a longer talk you can take the opportunity to set the context for your idea.  Bryan Stevenson ‘s talk delivers a hard-hitting message, but gives it personal context with a warm story about the power of identity.  Brené Brown opens her talk with a short story that connects her audience to who she is and why she’s passionate about the work that she does.

 

A – Approach

What’s your approach?  In your presentation, what are you going to do to address the need that you’ve established in your audience’s mind?  Or maybe you want to give your audience some concrete information to lend credibility to your message. But beware! This is where many people put most of their focus in their presentations. You’re in danger of losing your audience completely, if you drown them in detail. In her talk, Brené Brown makes brief reference to her ten-year career as a social worker and her work as a researcher, but it’s all we need to believe in her conclusions later in her talk.

 

B – Benefits

Why should your audience care?  What would your audience do if they didn’t adopt your proposal? Stop for a moment and consider your audience’s second-best option.   Now go ahead and position your proposal against the competition – explain why you’re painting a brighter picture or what they’ll get out of following your suggestion.  Both Bryan Stevenson and Brené Brown make use of storytelling to invent a better future.

 

A – Action

Finally, give your audience a call to action.  What do you expect them to do as a result of your talk? Where can they go to get further information?  In a work presentation, a simple, concrete step that your audience can adopt will further your cause –  visit our shop, sign up for a free trial, set up a meeting with key stakeholders.  In Brené Brown’s case, she’s made the case for us  to slow down and embrace who we are – “Because when we work from a place, that says, “I’m enough”, we’re kinder and gentler to the people around us”.  By the end of his talk, Bryan Stevenson has built up a resonant talk that calls on us all to keep an eye on the prize, and hold on, no matter how difficult the circumstances.

 

For your next talk, how can SABA help you to develop a compelling message that results in action?

 

 

 

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Lessons from TEDx – how can you enjoy your speaking more?

emotions in audience

Sometimes after getting invited to do something we get that sudden excitement followed by the realisation – “Oh no I have to actually do this now!”  That was certainly the case after I got invited to speak at TEDxStormont in 2014.  I needed practice, lots of it!

At first practising went ok, I gained a tiny bit of confidence quite quickly but unfortunately soon after that I hit a brick wall. I felt there would be no way I could be ready to stand up and speak in the Great Hall at Stormont, I was hating the practice.

One day about a month out I decided to throw in the towel and I penned an email to the organiser apologising but I wouldn’t be able to do the talk after all.   I didn’t send the email in the end; perhaps many people wish I did!    I decided to give it a couple more attempts and I was invited to speak at an event in Dublin that would serve as a good final test to see if I could do this thing.  When I came off the stage I felt completely different to every other time I had spoken. It suddenly dawned on me that for the first time I had actually enjoyed it.

Then the organiser came over to me and thanked me for what he thought was a very good talk.  He said, “I really felt you shift emotions in the room and that’s what a successful talk does: shifts people’s emotions.”  He was a very well respected speaker so to hear that gave me confidence and I decided to plug away and get this TEDx done as best I could for the person I had written it for.

As I drove home that day I reflected on how I came to the point where I finally felt more confident about my speaking. I realised there were four key things I’d learnt:

  1. Practice is always beneficial even when it feels horrible.
  2. Eventually practice brings a breakthrough and then real enjoyment.
  3. Enjoyment is felt by the audience and that’s what shifts emotions.
  4. A successful speech shifts people’s emotions.

So I’ll leave you with a question to think about “How can you enjoy your speaking more?”  Get in touch on Facebook if you have any comments!


Richard Wasson

Richard Wasson has sailed the world on exploration superyachts. He has many stories to tell from his years as captain and chief officer to the very rich and the very famous! Now officially retired from sea, his quest to help people be happier in their life and careers is ongoing. Watch Richard’s TEDx talk here.

“This post is the second in a series of three posts, where I share just some of the things I learnt from my TEDx experience. You can read the others here and here.”

 

 

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One simple tool to help your next presentation or talk

FLeD Goals

What’s the first thing that you do when you’re asked to give a presentation? Do you spend weeks putting it off, and finally sit down the night before to pull it all together? Or maybe you want to whip out a blank piece of paper and start to scribble down your thoughts straight away? Or perhaps you open up Powerpoint and start working on your slides right away?   Well whichever approach you take, here’s a little tool to help you to cut down on the time that it takes you to prepare a presentation.   It’s a simple device that we call FLeD Goals.

Your FLeD goals should be the beginning of every presentation.   Before you start, sit and reflect for a moment on what you want your presentation to achieve. Think about your audience and what you want to give them in your talk.  When you know where you’re going, you’re far more likely to get there.

FLeD – F – Feel

What do you want your audience to Feel by the time you’ve finished your presentation?   Maybe you want them to feel reassured that they’re in the right hands – that you are the person to guide them through the problem that you’re addressing?  Or maybe it’s fear – fear of missing out – that if they don’t work with you, they’ll miss out on an opportunity?   Whatever you want your audience to feel – joy, sadness, nostalgia, disgust, admiration, surprise – just make sure that you leave them feeling something!

FLeD – L – Learn

What do you want your audience to Learn? This can be a tricky one.  After all, you’re an expert in your topic, and the temptation is always there to try to pass on everything that you know to your audience.   Instead, think about the number one thing that you want your audience to learn, and build your presentation around that.

FLeD – D – Do

What do you want them to Do? Hopefully your audience has learnt something new, and ideally you’ve changed what they’re feeling.  But what’s next?   What would you like them to Do now?  Your Do might be something simple – Like our Facebook page, visit our shop, sign up online for a free trial – or you might be looking for something bigger like a change in behaviour or a shift in attitude.  At the end of your presentation, what small step will you ask your audience to take to move towards that outcome?

Your FLeD Goals is a simple device that can really help you to focus on what you want your presentation to say. Try this the next time you’re asked to speak.  It will help you to put a better presentation together in less time.  Get in touch on Facebook – let us know how you get on!