Research Matters! at Brown

On November 5, 2016, I gave a 5 minute presentation entitled “Neural Circuits: How Brain Meets World.” Watch the video below, and then read below for my musings on the experience.

To get to the point of presenting my research without any notes to a live audience and film crew took quite a bit of hard work. I have been involved in science communication for about 2 years now, so I had some experience before this process started, but I have never given a talk without notes. In the beginning of this process, I submitted a talk outline that represented what I could talk about. It was somewhat longer than 5 minutes if read out loud, but it was important to bring up the different ways my research matters. Later I would refine my story to be more story-like. After being selected for the event, I met with several people, including the selection committee and the other speakers to refine the talk and practice. Over the course of 2 weeks, I went through 4 substantially different versions of my talk and practiced it at least 30 times. By the time I reached the stage, I knew the talk inside out and backwards, but I still had a few sentences come out differently than I had planned. That’s fine. I knew the material well enough that I knew multiple ways to make the same point. In this experience, I learned many things about public speaking and speaking with the intent of videotaping.

A few things I learned:

  • Carefully choose your clothing. Shoes must be comfortable and easy to walk in. Your clothes should be solid colors, and have no excess fabric. I found that black pants and shirt with a pop of color worked really well. But, it is critical to try out your options and have your friends make the final selection because they’ll catch things – like the super pretty but also distracting fabric pieces on one possible shirt – that you wouldn’t.
  • It is ok if some of the words come out wrong. You really do know this well enough to recover from a mistake.
  • A pause comes across well to the audience, whether it is intentional or if you are scrambling to come up with the next sentence.
  • Everyone’s research has a compelling angle and several reasons why it matters. The key to this presentation was finding the story that matters most to me.

I am happy to discuss this talk, both the content and the development. Send me a message using the contact form.

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