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53 interesting ways to communicate your

research
Sara Shinton is a freelance research educator who works for a range of universities north of
the Scottish border. Ive followed Sara on Twitter for ages and kept meeting people who love
her work. After a series of missed attempts to meet during my visits to the UK, I did wonder
if we were destined to be academic ships in the night, but Sara made a big effort to come
and have breakfast with me when I was in Edinburgh in early June.
1. Include a QR code on your conference posters Suggests Steve Hutchinson. One of
the challenges of the poster format is how to avoid doing what Hutchinson calls your
thesis on a sheet. The short section on posters includes advice on word count (400
600) and suggests that you use a QR code to lead people to more information. Genius.
2. Visual Cognitive dissonance (VCD) is an interesting technique suggested by
Debbie Braybrook. VCD happens when the audience is confused by how the image
on your slide relates to what you are saying. The book points out that this can be used
as a kind of visual cliff-hanger to keep your audience interested, so long as your
verbal presentation eventually helps them make the connection.
3. The news hook is a key ingredient of the op-ed piece says Eleanor Carter. Op Eds
tend to be about 800 words long and relate in some way to current events. A common
tactic is to make a simple statement of the argument the author wants to confront,
and then spend the rest of the words making a counter argument. Something all
researchers should be good at!
4. Consider using objects in your presentations says Anthony Haynes. If you are
presenting your scientific experiment, why not bring in some of the equipment? If you
are doing a history thesis, maybe you could bring in objects from the period (or
reproductions). This tactic works, the author argues, because we are all used to slides.
The shift into 3D is unexpected and can make the audience curious about what you
have to say.
5. Mix up the texture of podcasts says Lucy Blake. The most interesting podcasts are
composed of more than one voice or type of sound. Try getting a friend to interview
you, make a podcast of a group discussion or record other kinds of sounds and cut
them in.
6. When presenting, think in threes suggests Aiofe Brophy Haney. Good stories have a
beginning middle and end. The end should resolve the story somehow. suggests a
33 matrix. Heres one I made for a 20 minute presentation on social media I have to
do in a couple of weeks time:
Topic: how to grow and use your social networks
The strategies
Finding and
following the right
people
Feeding your

The tools

The problems

Twitter / Facebook / Dealing with


Linkedin
information smog
Flipboard / Scoop-it / Remembering where

network

Twitter

Contributing to the
conversation

Micro-blogging
Being a good
commenter

you put stuff


Finding time within
your schedule and
space in your job
description

7. Keep a checklist of Tweet types. Sara Shinton points out that some people can fear
Twitter because they dont know what to say. She provides a short, but useful list of
possible tweets: signpost to resources (links to other blogs, journal articles); publicise
an event, react to something (a news article, a conference presentation) or ask for
help.
8. Think about how to repackage yourself and your skills in a job interview says
Caron King, who breaks down the process of describing yourself and your skills into
three Es:

Elicit everything you know and have done by writing it all down.

Explain what you have done and delivered, including the impact you have made.

Then think of how to provide evidence, using data wherever possible.

9. There are only five types of questioner says Lucinda Becker: Confused, Oratory
(basically intent on giving a mini lecture disguised as a question), aggressive,
unexpected and helpful. She goes on to give good advice about how to deal with each
type.
10. When going for a non academic job, speak the employers language says Steve
Joy. Planning experiments becomes project management, Supervision becomes
leadership, presenting at conferences becomes engaging with stakeholders.
This last one is brilliant advice I wish Id known sooner, in fact a lot of the book is like that.
Go and buy it if you are the slightest bit more interested in how to talk about your
research, and yourself, in ways that others can easily understand.