PUBLIC SPEAKING

 

Given that I’m one of the organisers of PubhD Manchester, it’s only fair that I should give a talk of my own.  And it was my turn last night! I spoke for ten minutes on my thesis “Retrofitting UK housing for a warming climate”, and answered a load of questions from the audience (some of them were really tough, but these were the fun ones!).  I think I went over the 20-minute limit for the questions but because I was the last speaker, it wasn’t a problem.

There’s more info on the format of PubhD Manchester on the website, but to briefly cover what it was like, we set up in a lovely local pub with a whiteboard and some pens, and we had three speakers, each talking for ten minutes and answering questions afterwards. I was speaker number three, with the preceding two speakers talking about their research on British Imperialism as presented to the German public by the Nazi media, and the reaction of the coal industry to climate change legislation.

I usually introduce the event and each speaker in turn, but because the two organisers were both speaking this time we had to alternate.  When it was my turn I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I should be, and I actually really enjoyed speaking in public.  I recently went on a public speaking course with work, and it looks as though I might have actually learnt something from it.

I had been stupidly busy in the run-up to the event, and I wrote my notes for the talk during my lunch break on the same day.  Oops. But I know my subject really well, and on the night I just used my notes as a prompt – the way it should be when you’re doing a presentation. I felt really confident and enjoyed having people listening to what I had to say.  The audience was about 20 people, and this was a small event suitable for practising my presentation skills ready for conferences. Having to condense my Ph.D into 10 minutes meant that I had to review and carefully consider my research.  Events like these are good for consolidating one’s knowledge as well.  Some of the questions from the audience covered areas of research that I hadn’t even considered, so this gave me inspiration for new topics to include in my writing.

My speech seemed to flow well, in spite of my poor preparation, but it was very useful to have the timer on display near to me.  Being able to see how much time I had left allowed me to move on to new topics at the right time to structure the talk suitably.  It’s amazing how eloquently and clearly, and how much, I can talk about my work.  Many people commented before I did my talk that I’m very passionate about my subject and that they could imagine I’d be a good speaker.  I’m hoping to build on this and attend posters events and give talks on discrete areas of my work in other settings.

One thing that I was particularly worried about was my audibility.  I’ve been told before that I’m too quiet when I present, so this is something I’ve been working on.  And it turns out that people could hear me just fine, even in a noisy pub.  However, I still need to work on slowing down my speech – apparently I spoke at the same speed as I do in conversation – which is pretty damn fast.

After we finished the event, some people stayed in the bar to chat.  We had some really interesting conversations, not so much about my research, but really stimulating anyway.  And rather hilarious too – I heard some “interesting” tales of former student houses, and was introduced to the concept of the “chundergrad”.  Yeah, it’s as bad as it sounds.  The whole night was a good experience, for the mind, soul, and funny bone.  I’ll definitely come back for the next one (as the organiser, I suppose I have to).

 

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