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Get this one thing right – and your 3MT® talk will be a winner!

3MT Ulster University Winner

Ulster University has had great success in the prestigious 3MT® competition. In 2018, Temilola Olanrewaju secured a top 12 place in the UK-wide competition, followed quickly by Oluwashina Akinsanmi winning the UK People’s Choice Award in 2019.

Putting their awards to one side for a moment, we asked them what they thought the biggest benefit of the competition was. Apart from the public speaking and communication benefits, they said:
• “It challenged me to really look at the bigger picture of my work. (The competition) pushed me to understand my research more.” – Temilola
• “Challenging myself has always been my driving force in life. (By experiencing the 3MT® challenge), I created a platform for my research to be seen.” – Oluwashina

Just like Temilola and Oluwashina, you are undertaking the complex challenge of a PhD thesis. Your research really matters, so why not take this opportunity to really get to the heart of your research study to prepare you for a better thesis, a focussed write-up and a confident viva.

Start with Why
The first thing we’re going to look at is Why. Why does your PhD make you tick and why should anyone care? There are many reasons why researchers decide to to undertake a PhD. Is one of these people you?
• “I studied this topic at undergraduate and I would have loved to spend more time on it, it really fascinated me. I had to take the opportunity to dig in deeper and explore the subject.”
• “I worked as a clinician/youth worker/art curator and wanted to get into my subject in depth in a way that the pressures of day-to-day work could not allow.”
• “I studied Computer Science as an undergraduate and was fascinated to see cutting edge algorithms applied to real world problems.”
• “I am affected by this disease and want to find ways of helping other people to have a better experience.”

The decision to commit to an intense course of study and discovery as a PhD student is deeply personal. But as an academic, you don’t typically talk about why you undertook your PhD – you’re accustomed to conducting your research objectively, without bias and with regard for the facts and evidence. The personal doesn’t come into it.

So when it comes to your 3MT®, we’re going to ask you dig a little bit deep. Ask yourself why you took on this PhD and why it matters. You’ll make yourself vulnerable up there on that stage because you’ll let us see the person behind the research. It’s not a comfortable thing to do at first. But ask any previous participant. They’ll tell you it’s intensely liberating.

But relax a moment, we’re not necessarily asking you to tell us your life story in your 3MT®. Just watch Temilola and Oluwashina in action. Their passion for their research is what we see – no mention of their own personal story. Although they will have thought about their personal commitment to their research in order to develop their inspirational 3MT® talks. Chioma Paul in 2016 took a different approach – she did give us an insight to the personal story that inspired her research and it worked well. Just remember – if you don’t show your audience why you care, why should they?

Your audience
So now we’ve mentioned your audience – the people watching your talk. The ones you need to win over with your words. You know why your research matters, but do they? If you want to change minds, you need to meet your audience where they are. Why should they care about your research as much as you do? Remember we are all selfish creatures – what’s in it for them? Will you make their lives easier? Will your research affect some of the big themes that are going on in the world right now?
• you will you contribute to a cure for a deadly disease?
• will you make better therapies for a disease?
• can you make our workplaces better and more productive?
• do you solve a big problem in society – like anti-social behaviour, racism, poverty?

If you can tie your research to a big theme, then your audience will understand why your research matters. Think big here, you’ll work on the credibility and evidence to back up your thesis in the body of your talk.

We know the impact statement can be a challenge for those of you early on in your PhD journey – your research question may not even be fully formed yet. But that is one of the big benefits of the 3MT® process – when you start to ask those difficult questions, just like Temilola, you’ll come to the realisation that your PhD matters even more than you first realised.

Personalise your talk
OK, so you’ve thought about a general audience for your talk, and reflected on why they should care. Let’s move your talk to the next level. Who is the beneficiary of your research? Is that a cancer patient? A parent of a teenager? A police officer on the beat? An elite athlete? A consumer? Now you have the task of crafting your talk for an audience of your beneficiaries, those that are really invested in your research. Imagine a real person that you know who represents that audience. Now it’s time to deliver your 3MT® as though you were speaking to them. By imagining a real, live person as your audience member, it will help you to keep your talk real, avoid jargon and really connect.

As a final inspiration to get your 3MT® started, watch this inspirational TED Talk from leadership expert Simon Sinek. He’s uncovered a simple but powerful model of communication that will help you to get to the heart of your PhD thesis and deliver a brilliant 3MT®. Because according to Sinek, people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. Start with ‘Why’ and you’ll inspire your audience – just like Temilola and Oluwashina.

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Presentations too long? Try pecha-kucha!

When you next present to a group, here’s something for you to try.  Ask someone in your audience a week later what they remember from your presentation.  Try it – you’ll find it’s an interesting lesson in key messages.  Did they remember your key take-away?  Unless you’re presenting to an audience that’s really invested in what you have to say, the reality is that they’re probably not giving you their undivided attention – even if they’re trying hard.   They’re tuning in and out of your presentation even as you’re standing in front of them. So why not try something different?  That’s where pecha-kucha comes in.

Shake it up

Pecha-kucha is a snappy, visual presentation format that comes with rules! A pecha-kucha allows you present 20 slides, each of which you deliver in 20 seconds. So your presentation lasts 6 minutes 40 seconds precisely.  This forces you to be concise, and to strip your message right back to what really matters.  And the great thing is that your audience listens to you in a completely different way. Because the slides keep changing, they give you their attention.  Or if you’re really up for a challenge, why not try an Ignite talk?  The rules for an Ignite talk are 20 slides of 15 seconds duration – 5 minutes in total!  Same idea, just different timings.

And here’s the fun part – the slides advance by themselves. Yes, it’s like you have a movie playing behind you on screen as you present. Not easy, but I promise – this format makes your audience more present for your presentation. They listen more actively. Tell them you’ll be up there for no more than six minutes 40 seconds (or five minutes) come what may, and you’ll find they’re willing to give you their focus and attention.

How to give an Ignite talk

Here’s a great video from Scott Berkun, bestselling author and speaker on creativity on ‘how and why to give an Ignite talk’.  Listen to his advice, give it a go, and transform your public speaking forever!

https://vimeo.com/351794698

 

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How to be a brilliant lightning panellist

Lightning panels are a rapid-fire event format designed to introduce an audience to a topic that they may not know much about. As an expert speaker, you’re invited to sit on a panel to share your knowledge – in a short space of time.  A typical lightning panel of 3 or 4 speakers might only take 15 minutes.  Just like a regular panel event, a lightning panel has a moderator to keep the conversation flowing, and to find out more about your specialist area of expertise.  A lightning panel does not allow for the depth of opinion or discussion that a regular panel offers – instead you only have the opportunity to give your audience the key pieces of information they need to know about your subject area.

Lightning panels often take place as part of a larger event.  Event organisers love them because they’re a great way to help event attendees make the most of an event.  A lightning panel is a brilliant way to explain your subject in a short punchy format to get people’s interest. If public speaking isn’t your first love, the added bonus of a lightning panel is that it’s an easier way to explain your topic than delivering a prepared talk.  Since you’re sharing the stage with 2 or 3 other people, you’ll be speaking for less than 5 minutes in total.  Plus you have a moderator on hand to help you out if your mind goes blank or you forget what you meant to say!  Lightning panels have become popular at careers events, where students need to hear from a variety of experts to learn about how a particular industry works.

So if you’re asked to sit on a lightning panel, what should you do? Firstly, we think that you should say yes! What better way to attract students to your industry for example, than by giving them key information that you wish you knew at their age?  To prepare, connect with the panel moderator before the event so that you understand how they plan to run the session.  Usually they’ll ask you to introduce yourself, so you’ll need a short personal introduction or ‘elevator pitch’ ready to explain who you are, what you do and why your audience should be interested. After that, the moderator will ask you one or two questions to allow you to explain your job to your audience.  When you prep for this, think about the questions you’d ask about an industry you know nothing about….. Are there common misconceptions about your industry that you’d like to dispel?  What should students study to get into your industry?  What’s the thing you like best about your job?  What’s your most memorable experience?  Think about one thing you’d like your audience to take away and find the best stories from your job to illustrate that point.

Your lightning panel appearance is a great way to encourage students to consider your industry or your organisation for their next move.  It’s a light-touch way for you to inspire the next generation.  Good luck!

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Business Eye press coverage

We’re pleased to feature in the November 2018 issue of Business Eye magazine.  We’ve worked with over 1,500 people in our three years in business so far – it’s nice to see that number in print!  Thank you to all the wonderful clients that we’ve worked with, and for investing in your teams.  We’ve loved the journey with with you all, and look forward to 2019 together.

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What to wear on TV

green screen

We’re often asked for advice on what to wear on TV or in a video.  Whilst you might spend hours agonising over your look, it’s really best for you to keep it simple.  If you’re wearing something distracting, then that’s all your viewers will remember.  After all, you want your viewers focussing on what you say, not on your clothes.   The other thing to remember is that you should wear something that makes you feel comfortable. It’s probably not a great idea to rush out and buy a whole new outfit especially for your camera appearance! You’ll feel more relaxed if you know that everything fits and sits properly.  If your shoes hurt or if your jacket is too tight – then your body language on camera will be all wrong!

So how do you avoid ending up on the cutting room floor? Here are some clothes that you should definitely avoid when appearing on camera:

moire pattern

1. Small, complex patterns can strobe on camera.  Avoid thin stripes, herringbones and polka dots.   For men, avoid shirts with a thin stripe or ties with a small pattern.

2. Avoid shiny fabrics that reflect light back into the camera.

3. For the ladies – jewellery that rattles and clinks can be distracting for the viewer  as your clip-on microphone will pick up those sounds.

4. For a media interview avoid emblems, logos and badges on your clothing, unless it’s your company uniform. Your interviewer may ask you to remove them or cover them up.

5. If you’re appearing against a green screen, then green clothing will blend into the background. If you’re headed for the TV studio and you’re not sure of the setup, avoid green jackets, shorts and blouses.

 

Here are some suggestions to keep you looking cool in the hot seat:

1. Wear natural fabrics like cotton in studio.  Studio lights can be hot, and you’ll be more relaxed if you’re not feeling overheated.

2. If you’re wearing trousers, wear socks that reach over your calf, so that your skin doesn’t show when you cross your legs when seated.

3. Solid colours are always a safe bet – pastels, blue and dark blue work well.

4. If you have long hair, tying it back will keep it off your face and avoid shadows.

5. Last of all – make-up keeps off glare, even for men :-).  Even if you’re not accustomed to make-up, it’s a good idea to bring some powder with you.  You can’t assume that  a make-up artist will be available if you’re making a studio visit, so bring your own.

And if you’re not headed for the TV studio, very often your interviewer will want to speak with you on location.  Maybe they’ll want to see you on the factory floor, or outside your place of work. Well, please don’t forget to dress for the weather.  You’ll often spend a lot longer standing around waiting that you anticipated, and your interview will be a lot more natural if you’re not soaked through or frozen with the cold!

And when you’ve done all that, remember to relax and smile! Not only will it help you to build rapport with your viewers, but research shows that smiling during brief periods of stress can help you to feel less stressed out (1). That’s got to be a win-win for your next appearance on camera!

 

(1) Kraft & Pressman (2012) Grin and bear it: the influence of manipulated facial expression on the stress response. Journal of Psychological Science

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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!