Pre-Presentation pep talk

Hi readers! Since the last post a lot has happened! I went on holiday to Greece and moved into a new house when I got back.  Also, some good news- I’m now part of the Science Innovation Union as their Editor in Chief.

The SIU was founded in Oxford and has already expanded to London, Frankfurt & Katowice. The charity is meant as a platform to bring together those in academia and industry for bi-directional education and to inspire an entrepreneurial mindset to boost the innovation ecosystem.  Do check them out. There are termly events and a weekly updated editorial service with reviews, opinions, news and interviews. I’m looking forward to learning from my voluntary role there, which is my first official ‘job’ so to speak.

In PhD related news, I recently did my ‘transfer of status’ viva, which is the formal interview style examination all first year Oxford DPhil candidates go through to progress from a Probationary Research student to a DPhil student. As part of this, I had to prepare a brief presentation for two assessors. A few months before this, there was a practice viva or ‘informal viva’ and I remembered being quite nervous about this. But I somehow managed to be the coolest cucumber during my presentation, standing strong and speaking confidently. I wanted to have this same assured manner this time around. So I questioned myself- What did you make yourself believe last time? What did you tell yourself before you entered the interview room?

So here are the usual messages in my self pep talks before academic presentations:

  1. You must believe in yourself. Shut down the Impostor Syndrome voice and amplify the self-belief, positive voice. 
    • Self belief is contagious to the people listening to you.  Be confident that you deserve to be in that position to present your work . Your mindset will manifest itself in your demeanour. Realise that the doubtful voice is normal  but it is not the only voice in your mind. You have the choice to listen to it or turn it’s volume down.
  2.  Be ready to put on an act. 
    • You may not be feeling particularly confident regardless of how hard you’ve been trying to boost your optimism. In this case, it’s time to become a performer! Your acting role requires you to be composed and authoritative. Adopt a presentation persona if this is what is necessary to bring your best performance and snap you out of a bad mood.
  3. Realise that your audience/examiners are not aiming to fail you. 
    • I once read public speaking advice which recommended imagining your audience as cute pigs cheering you on. Whilst this is extreme, it has a point. Assessors of your presentation are usually on your side and want to see you do well. They are cheering you on- they just aren’t cute pigs. They may ask you tough questions but it’s not so that they can laugh at your stupidity when you don’t know the answer. The challenging questions are for your benefit.
  4. Have some humour and be openminded
    • There is usually an option to repeat an academic presentation/interview such as the transfer viva. So keep this in mind that the first round is not the end of the road if you don’t pass. You can try again. And if it’s not assessed but just a presentation, then … why are we nervous again? Laugh at yourself for being nervous.
    • But if there is some weight on your presentation as a hurdle you must cross in your academic journey, don’t focus on the negative storyline of potentially failing it. Think that if you do fail it, you will always find something else to do in this game of life that you are great at.

After your presentation, take time to celebrate. Treat yo’ self!

I hope this is helpful to grad students out there preparing for an assessment. I’ll most likely revisit this page myself before my next presentation 😀

If you have a  pep talk list you’d like to share, please post it on the PhD Diaries page!

Thank you again for reading!







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