Symposium preparations

lj sdsEach year, Skills Development Scotland (who part fund my PhD) work together to deliver a careers guidance research symposium and this year is no different. The purpose of the symposium is to bring together trainee careers advisers, SDS staff and researchers in the broad field of careers guidance. I attended the one Skills Development Scotland delivered last year and found it quite beneficial, firstly to network with different SDS staff and trainee careers advisers, but more importantly to hear about the work currently being carried out by PhD students like me.

As I am currently on the Scottish Graduate School of Social Science (SGSSS) and Skills Development Scotland (SDS) Collaborative PhD Programme, I was asked if I would want to present my work as a workshop / seminar during the symposium taking place this year. I was quite looking forward to doing this but soon realised that my own PhD work was not at the stage of full presentation just yet, and decided I needed a way to incorporate other things I had done, to make sure my presentation was both relevant to career advising but also reflected the work I am current doing for my PhD.

At first, I developed a presentation about the differences between researching as part of an internship (whilst employed as a careers adviser) and doing research as part of my PhD. I thought that this was a great idea so that the audience could see what I had done to get where I am in relation to my PhD. However, after a dry-run of the workshop / seminar to some fellow PhD students and a careers adviser, I realised this approach was not what I had hoped… and changes needed to be made.

Firstly, I had way too much information in the presentation for a 45 minute workshop / seminar. This meant that there was a lot to digest and to be quite honest, a lot to take in. It also meant that my slides were quite packed so the slides could not accompany what I was saying, rather they were doing the talking (not cool for a presentation). I also pitched the presentation too academically. This meant that I explained my research well, but there was probably a bit too much technical information in there which was not overly necessary. I had to remember that my audience will be educated to a high level and do have a understanding of things like research design and methods, but do they really need to know all about the technical stuff behind this? Probably not!

Secondly, the structure was a little off and did not flow too well. I’m pleased that I got this feedback as I had struggled to link some slides together and could not see how my presentation part 1 and 2 linked. With some good feedback, I realised that my general structure was okay but I needed ways to help relate the slides (and sections) together so the audience could see how it flowed. From working on this, it is hoped that I can then talk about the different themes in my presentation without the worry of having to pause, stop and restart as it is.

The dry-run of my presentation helped me realise that I need to ‘cut the crap out of my sides’. In more polite terms, using images and graphics to exemplify my points will: (1) help the audience visualise what I am explaining and: (2) actually be able to listen to what I am saying without having to read the slides. I also needed to make it less academic as my audience are practice related and not sole academics. I found this one difficult as I struggled to see how this could work. However, I realised that cutting out some of the jargon and focusing more on how the research can influence career adviser work can help ground the presentation into their own practice and understand the points I am trying to make.

I’ve also restructured the presentation slightly to emphasise a different purpose for the presentation. I will still be explaining both my internship and my PhD, but instead of focusing on the differences between the two I will be: (1) giving some brief information on each; (2) explain how I have shared my work with others and; (3) get my audience to think about how they can search for and access research and apply this to their own practice.

As my presentation is still a work in progress, I can’t post the slides yet. However, I will be able to share these on my own SlideShare account when I am able to and I do believe the presentations will be made public as they were in the 2015 and 2016 symposiums.

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