So one day a while back, I volunteered to be part of the School of Computing postgraduate student research conference committee. The conference was scheduled to take place on May 11th 2016 at the Merchiston Campus of Edinburgh Napier University. I didn’t really know what to expect, or what the role involved but I thought it would be a good ideas to help develop my confidence and also get involved a bit more. So I did.
Anyway, we had six students and our responsible members of staff on the SoC conference committee, and we all were involved in the process of planning and organising the event. Some of the committee dealt with practicalities like getting things printed, getting organised for the day (catering, rooms etc) and others helped out to chair sessions.
My role was to chair the second year session where each second year student was required to present a 20×20 presentation of their PhD work. As part of my role, I had to communicate with the second years, making sure they were okay in presentation preparation and setting deadlines so that I could check the presentations thorough. With a little persuasion and thanks, we got our presentations all sorted ready to go on the day and everyone was just amazing! The presentations were great and it was hard work for everyone to ensure that speaking was clear and well-spoken!
I’m pleased I was able to do this as part of my preparation as this is what I will be doing for iDocQ 2016. It means that may problems I may encounter for iDocQ may have already been dealt with during this conference which is good. The experience kind of showed me how much effort actually goes into planning a conference and how much hard work it is to coordinate a group of people so that they submit presentations on time. For those who do this daily, I salute you!
Anyway, on the day it ran pretty smoothly and first of all, we got to listen to Dr Wendy Moncur who talked to us about her career and journey through a PhD. It was quite nice to hear a different academic give advice and one thing has stuck with me. She explained that we are on a ‘research apprenticeship’ where we are constantly learning and studying. We are training ourselves and our minds to become fully fledged researchers and the journey of a PhD helps us do that. Wendy spoke a lot about her own experiences, what she did and what she felt she could have done better. Most importantly, she spoke from her heart. Her speech did not seem rehearsed (although she did have slides), she spoke form images, pictures and experience. This is the type of speaker I respect, someone who can tell it as it is, and give advice to people they have never met before.
We then heard some of our third year students discuss their research (in full presentation format). It was really interesting to see how research has progressed and how different research topics are. The programme details the running order and also has abstracts on third year presentations so you can see what I’m talking about. As part of my own research, I was then required to present a one minute madness (taking about your research for a minute – hyper speed haha, examples can be found here) and then a poster which I have added to my slideshare account (thank you Hazel Hall). I think that my poster was designed well, however, I have already made improvements to it so that I can make it better for my next conference – ISIC. As I am not an automatic speaker, I hated the thought of having to talk about my research for one minute in front of the whole school. Last time I did, I forgot the names of my funders and messed the whole thing up, but this time it was quite different. I was nervous, but not in panic. I managed to explain my research in one minute and direct people to my poster, something I thought I would not be able to do.
After lunch was another opportunity for me to speak (again!), but this time I chaired the second year 20×20 presentation session. Each student was required to present 20 slides / images for 20 seconds each. This session was a little less formal than the full presentation but it was decided that all years would present something different to keep the spirits up and the day progressing nicely. I think that all presentations were great, and were well prepared so that when it came to presenting everyone did really well. For me, standing in front of an audience for 2.5 hours whilst others presented was a little odd. I’m not used to ‘presenting myself’ even when I did sit in the corner next to the computer (in case of many IT mishaps – which did of course occur). It was good that I was able to stand up and speak, encourage questions and even ask some myself. I even got compliments off our Director of Research and our Dean of School which was even better in the days following the conference!!I think for me, this was more of a confidence boost than just presenting, not only because I was able to do it (kind of) confidently, but because someone else noticed and told me. I often get nervous and flustered when doing things like that but I think I’m starting to settle in properly in the school and am finding the public speaking journey a little easier now.
We rounded off the day with the final their year presentations and then a little wine reception where the session winners were announced. It appears that the judges were very kind on me and nominated my poster for second place, quite pleasing in my eyes. It kind of just ended the week nicely really!
Anyway, I think that is enough for now as I know others will be blogging about this later on. But please do keep reading about my PhD adventures, presentations and conferences as these are what make the PhD journey fabulous!
**Goal of being more confident in front of audience = check**