Giving a short and engaging summary of your research is a vital skill for researchers. We often ask for oral presentations at our grants panels and competitions, so here the Chair of one of our grants panels shares her top tips to help you present your elevator pitch with confidence:
All grant panel interviews start by giving you a few minutes to introduce yourself and your project – even if you’ve not been asked to do a presentation. Knowing this and being prepared to pitch your work is key to making a strong first impression.
Know your audience
Whether you’re pitching to a grant panel or presenting at a meeting, you’re likely to be faced with a multidisciplinary audience. Adapt your pitch and make sure you can be understood by everyone present.
Get them hooked
Aim to catch the attention of everyone, not just those already interested in your research area. Start with a compelling hook that bridges the gap between something all your audience can relate to and your research.
Keep it simple
Answer the key questions: why, what and how? Doing day-to-day research can get you caught up in the fine details, but for presentations you need to be able to take a step back and communicate the essence of your research. Don’t mention technical details, caveats or contingency plans: if your audience want to know more, they’ll ask you.
Share the big picture
Show the significance of your research by putting the outcomes in context. Tell your audience how your findings could contribute to your field, and to wider society. Remember to be realistic and use positive language.
Stand out from the crowd
Research is a collaborative effort but it’s important to show what you bring to the table. Highlight what makes your research unique, and with team science efforts, clearly define who participated and what role you played.
Make it personal
Give your audience a feel for who you are. What interests you? What drives you? How does that shape your research?
Cut the jargon
Don’t expect the audience to understand the jargon of your field. Decide which key technical terms are vital when discussing your research and take the time to explain them. Then use lay terms wherever possible to effectively communicate the rest of your message.
Simple is beautiful
Visual aids like PowerPoint can be useful to support and enhance what you’re saying, butbe sure to avoid visual clutter and redundant information so you’re not competing for the audience’s attention.
Perfect your timekeeping
Know your time limit in advance and plan accordingly. It’s better to go under time than over time, and don’t try to fit too much in: a rushed presentation is harder to understand.
Practice makes perfect
Rehearse your presentation with both peers and non-experts – your colleagues can comment on the science, and your family and friends will tell you if it’s clear and engaging. Competitions at conferences and meetings are a great way to practice your presentation skills, so don’t hesitate to take part!
Our Grants Team were speaking to Professor Marina Botto FMedSci, Chair for our Starter Grants for Clinical Lecturers Panel. Professor Botto is Professor of Rheumatology and Director of the Centre for Complement and Inflammation Research at the Imperial College London Department of Medicine.