How To Give A Convincing 10 Minute RESCON Research Presentation

Birmingham City University recently held its 2013 version of RESCON and I delivered a short presentation on an aspect of our contract cheating research. This is an internal conference, bringing together the breadth of research across Birmingham City University.

Whilst there was some excellent research presented, showing the skill base of both the Birmingham City University staff and research students, I also noticed many presenters who were not able to work within the particular constraints of this event. The most notable constraint? A firm 10 minute time limit to presentations, with a very tight schedule, and potentially allowing for some handover time. The other constraint? A multidisciplinary audience, who don’t have qualifications in most of the fields being presented.

Research Mistakes

Because of this, I also observed several mistakes which should never have happened with professional presenters. People pitching their talk at completely the wrong level, or requiring advanced subject skills to understand it. Presenters just wanting to give a talk they gave at another conference with a 30 minute slot, and finding themselves cut off at the methodology section. And, generally, just bad presentation skills, people reading from scripts, mumbling, and suffering from poor slide design.

I can’t immediately solve the poor presentation skills that are inherent around research conferences (one would think that would be a core skill for anyone working in or considering a career in academia), but there are plenty of books and courses in that area.

What I can do is look at the core techniques designed to succeed in a research setting like this, and the motivation behind it.

How To Give More Suitable Short Research Presentations

First of all, the main reason to present at an internal conference like this is publicity. It’s all about keeping your name and research visible around the university and trying to grow the connections which will help to take it to a wider audience. This isn’t the place to debut massive research studies. This isn’t a research conference with a paper attached (these types of conferences do hold value within the Computing field). It’s a place to make connections.

Second, plan to base the talk about an aspect of your research which will make sense to all disciplines. The table showing detailed research findings in a tiny font can wait. Think of something that is accessible and which delegates can understand the basics of. For instance, I watched a presentation on music, where a piece of sheet music was projected and several features of that music were verbally explained. Assuming that most of the audience could not read sheet music, that could have been improved by playing the music.

Third, focus the talk around one idea. One small aspect of the work where a visible result can be presented (the results are generally more interesting than a detailed methodology). I saw an excellent example of this looking at fatherhood as a much larger portion of a PhD study. No technical consideration, but enough examples of results from the research, and quotes from participants, to make this accessible to an audience outside of the Health Faculty. If people are interested further in the research, provide them with a link to your other publications, or an offer to present a longer research seminar, and you’ll cover both audiences.

Fourth. If you’re inexperienced giving research presentations, particularly with this style, review the planned presentation with someone with more experience first. This is true especially for research students, who have the immediate benefit of having a research supervisor available to held them and to fulfill this role.

Think About Research Presentations Like This…

If you take one thing away from this post, make it to present one single accessible idea. Add the short set of interesting slides to your SlideShare account and the rest of your Professional Online Presence and use this to draw people in to the interesting areas of research that you’re working on.

Rescuing Academic Research

Whilst updating my academic profiles on Google Scholar and LinkedIn, I was rather surprised to come across several pieces of research that I’d written but not published in an official academic manner.

This research took several forms:

  • Some papers that had been developed early on in my PhD research and informed my later thesis, but which hadn’t been substantially well-enough “shaped” to submit
  • Two papers that I wrote with a BCU colleague after joining, but which I had rather lost track of asking he had agreed to seek publication for these
  • One paper written with a former MSc project student, which needed reducing in size before it could be published
  • And various papers which had been started, but not completed, with other academic commitments getting in the way

It’s unlikely now that the papers would be publishable without some substantial rework. If nothing else, the fields on which these papers were written will have moved on and the information will look dated. It does, however, seem a pity to have research that has been written but is not published anywhere, so I will look to see if there is any way to resurrect these.

Now, all that comes before other research which has been involved students which could easily be made publication ready (given time):

  • There are several good student projects which I’ve worked on previously with students which could easily be made into conference papers
  • In the Professional Practice 2 module students carry out a research investigation as part of an Action Learning Set. There have been some good efforts for this module too.

Both of these meet the wider requirements of  the “Students As Partners” movement which is rightfully gaining traction across the Higher Education Sector.

There are also pieces of research that I’ve carried out to involve students in modules which could also be published.

Finally, I recently wrote a sample literature review on an aspect of the contract cheating area, designed to show students how they could undertake an assessment of their own. Whilst the Literature Review probably isn’t publication ready in its own right, some gaps in the literature became immediately clear to me.

Generally, these were things that I remember presenting about (or watching other people give presentations on) during research seminars and workshops, but which had never made it through the formal documented process of an academic publication.

Some of these talks could easily be made into an academic conference paper with very little new work needed.

It just goes to show how much research is out there.

My Challenge

My challenge is to see what research can be rescued and used in some other form.

If nothing else, a number of previously published pieces of research are no longer available anywhere. Conferences which had web sites hosted by universities have since had their entire archives removed (one of the dangers of relying on a third party to host information).

I need to go back through the archive of what I’ve done, see what can be made available and see how it can be made available. Just having a single archive of papers and talks (linked to the appropriate copyright holders where necessary) is important, as opposed to stylistically different versions spread over multiple sites.

Just getting everything in order for my own records will represent a big achievement.

Your Challenge

Your challenge is to consider your own academic publications and see what information there is out there and how it’s stored.

If nothing else, I recommend updating your LinkedIn profile to include the Publications and making sure that these are archived on your own sites.

Students, as well, should think if there’s anything you’ve done which contains academic research and which might be publishable with the aid of your lecturers or project supervisor.

How does that sound? Is there anything that I’ve missed or which you wish to add?

Just comment below and do go ahead and share your thoughts.