I watched this TEDtalk by social psychologist Amy Cuddy a little while ago and the idea of “power posing” has definitely stuck with me.
Before meetings I find myself leaning back in my chair, propping my feet up on my desk and linking my hands behind my head. Okay truthfully I only do this when alone in my shared office – but when I do, it feels like an ultimate expression of confidence.
Before my recent Confirmation of Candidature presentation, I hid in the bathroom beforehand and held the ‘Superman pose’ – feet shoulder width apart, hands on hips, chest pushed out and head held high. This research recommends holding a “power pose” like this for two minutes for full effect. And I have to say… I felt really strong and comfortable and in-control.
So if you need a little extra confidence, watch this brilliant TEDTalk and give a “power pose” a go.
This is a presentation of your research proposal to a panel of academic markers (and hopefully some other interested people) to see whether they also think that your idea is realistic, rigorous and interesting. If all your markers pass you, you become an official PhD student – safe for the rest of your 3.5 years of research.
I was feeling both nervous and confident. Nervous because I was presenting to a panel of academic markers who would judge whether my research proposal was good enough to continue. I was also nervous as I wanted this presentation to contribute to my reputation as someone who is not only good at presenting, but also downright enjoys it. Due to this I had invited more people than strictly necessary to make a bit of a fun event about it.
I was confident for a few reasons. Firstly because I was presenting on a topic I knew – my own research. I also made sure that I knew all the requirements of the presentation: the time limit, and length of question time, all the aspects I had to cover (background, aim and objectives, methods and analysis).
I had practised alot. I knew my slides, all the transitions and animations. I had my speech on palm cards even though I didn’t think I would need them. I had practised with the slide clicker and had presented twice to my supervisors to get their opinions and advice. You can practise in front of anyone, friends, family or peers.
I also went to an effort to make the experience a comfortable one. I got to the room first and set up my slideshow, turned on only some lights so the slides could be seen, and put on some soft friendly music. This way, when people starting coming in they didn’t stand around awkwardly. Instead they relaxed and chatted to others there until it was time to begin.
So how did it go? Really really well. I kept to time, didn’t need my palm cards and was marked highly. I get to continue as an official PhD student of UniSA and study the topic of my own choosing: urban agriculture.
I recently watched a brilliant TED Talk by Melissa Marshall called “Talk Nerdy to Me”. She is a communications teacher and is seriously passionate about encouraging scientists to be able to clearly and effectively communicate their work to people outside of scientific circles.
Her top four tips for scientists, engineers and others were:
1. Tell us why your science is relevant to us and our lives. (This is the big picture stuff, or the day-to-day practicality).
2. When describing your science beware of jargon. Jargon is a barrier to outsiders.
3. Use stories and analogies to engage people. (This one is my favourite – stories are such a good way to connect with people).
4. When presenting – don’t use bullet points. (Now this one is tricky… I confess I love bullet points. I thought they made things simpler. I could have a nice few bullet points up on my slide and then talk and expand over the top of them. But Melissa says – just chat to people).
I think I mostly get excited when I hear science communication being discussed by people who have been both in “science and academia” and have also had interesting careers in fields such as, journalism, or teaching, or movie making, or graphic design. They seem like people who love to combine the best of both, and are thereby able to communicate their work, and the work of others in some really cool ways.
At the end of Year 12, I decided I wanted to go to university and do a double degree in Environmental Science, and Fine Arts. Except… that this didn’t exist.
I was told that it had never been done before, and that there were no processes in place to facilitate such a combination.
But I was convinced that there was such potential, and so many connections and similarities between science and art. Art is expression, emotion and all about telling a story (even if you don’t know what the story is). Science is observation, exploration and logically figuring things out.
Both are attempts to gain understanding.
But I was younger, and new to how universities worked and I let the idea go. I began the four years of environmental science it took to get me here at the beginning of a PhD. With what I now know – I wish I could go back and fight for that double degree. I would have said, “This is where the future is heading and I want in. I know we can figure it out somehow.” But I didn’t and that’s okay too. Because between my PhD, this new blog, and my artwork – I’m getting there anyway.