Three years after Write Now! was launched, we’re back! This time around, my colleague Dr Bruce Ryan (no relation) is the project lead, as he attended many of the sessions during the first year and was keen to get it going again. I joined in on the project bit to lend my expertise and experience, and to assist in setting up the writing sessions each week.
The sessions are held on Wednesdays from 2.30-4.30 pm. There is no obligation to join us every Wednesday. However the sessions are held at the same time each week so that participants can add the on-going events to their calendars. This will essentially block time out in advance so that they can protect this valuable time slot from being taken over by other meetings. It’s a great way to prioritise writing time.
Write Now! is for research students and academic staff who want time for concentrated writing. This time can be used to work on thesis chapters, journal or conference submissions, research grants, or other academic writing.
The sessions are self-led and participants manage their own writing processes. On arrival, participants are given a voucher for a drink and snack before they start writing. At the end of the session, they are asked to fill out brief (anonymous) progress cards noting what their writing goal was (and whether they met that goal) and the approximate number of words they wrote during the session.
Join us every Wednesday through May
(and maybe into June)! Triangle
Café (downstairs at Merchiston)
Free drinks and snacks
And don’t forget your laptop (or pen and paper if you’re Old Skool like that!)
Last week I presented at the 8th annual Information Science Doctoral Colloquium (iDocQ). The presentation was in the form of a PechaKucha, also known as a “20×20”. These presentations can be quite fun and exciting, especially if you are a confident and experienced communicator. However, if you are neither of those things, the idea of presenting 20 slides for 20 seconds each (for a total of 6 minutes and 40 seconds) might be a bit daunting.
This presentation style seems to be quite popular in the academic world—at least here in the UK. However, there seems to be a lot of confusion over what a 20×20 is (as well as what a 20×20 isn’t). And that’s where this post comes in.
OK, then. What is a 20×20? In the original form, they should be delivered as 20 images, on 20 slides, that each run for 20 seconds.
However, it seems that the image part has been overlooked by many in academia. That means that you see a fair amount of 20×20 slides that are filled with text. Lots and lots of text. Of course, that is not always the presenter’s fault. Often times, the person organising the talks doesn’t know what a 20×20 is meant to be (or has decided that they don’t care) so the only instructions presenters have is that they must have 20 slides over the course of a 6-minute, 40-second talk. Some organisers might insist that the slides automatically forward every 20 seconds, and others might not realise that little rule.
Ideally, 20×20 slides should be image-based no text. However, this can be a bit challenging for academics who are accustomed to developing text-heavy presentations. (But don’t do that. Really. Less is more!) Slides should not have any animation or transitions. Slides should also be set to advance automatically.
But why? It’s because the slides should be there to add visual stimulation to your intellectually stimulating words. They should not require your audience to read and should never include information that is vital to your talk. So, skip the detailed graphs and tables. (A 20×20 talk should be able to be presented without slides and still be just as informative.)
Heck, even for those of us who enjoy presentations, the idea of such a restrictive format can be a challenge. And with my habit of ad-libbing and going on wee rambles about a sub-point, it’s even more of a challenge! But I have learned a few tricks to make 20×20 presentations a bit easier to plan, prepare, and present.
Before you start putting slides together, have a think about what you’re going to say.
Prepare your spoken words before you prepare your slides (talk it out and time it as close to 6:40 as possible). Think very clearly about the theme of your presentation and start to build out your presentation. Your talk might be a single, descriptive storyline (Mary had a little lamb) or it might be a series of interconnected points (research questions, methods, findings, and conclusion). Either way, you are sharing a narrative that must flow together with ease.
Break your spoken words into 20-second segments (based on ideas or themes) then practice those segments. Think of your talk as sections or chapters and put breaks into the talk as those sections come along. Don’t forget to include pauses in each segment. Those pauses will give you time to breathe whilst your audience has time to process the information you’ve just shared with them.
Give each point or idea the time it needs! You can use more than 20 seconds for a point, but all points should fit with multiples of 20 seconds. If you need a full minute to make a point, take a full minute! But give some thought to how you’re delivering those 60 seconds so that you can switch-up the slide image to reflect the point every 20 seconds. For example, if your point is about social networking sites, you might change the image to reflect a different aspect such sites every 20 seconds, as it relates to the point. (You cannot use the same slide twice; each slide must be different.)
Make a note of non-vital sentences that can be dropped if you start to fall behind. This will allow you to catch up a bit, even if it takes 2-3 slides to get back in synch. A few seconds’ lag-time is hard to avoid for beginners, but it is better to drop sentences in the middle so that you finish on time. That way, you still have time to deliver your punchy, vital concluding sentences—and maybe even take a theatrical bow!
Now that you’ve got your talk ready, you can begin to illustrate it. Yes, this is the point when you can start working on your visuals.
Think of your talk as a visual storyboard. What one image illustrates each 20-second segment? If you’re talking about Facebook, there are lots of obvious options. But if you’re talking about something a bit vaguer, this is your chance to get creative and whimsical. For example, if you’re talking about the history of modern beer production, you might use a photo of hops growing on a trestle.
Find image inspiration on Google or Flickr. If you don’t know how to illustrate a point, enter some of your keywords into a Google image search to see what comes up. This can help you to see how others visualise your concepts, which might also help you to think more creatively about how you present your work in the future.
Mind your copyrights! It is easy to just swipe images from the Internet, but be mindful about copyright infringement. Wherever possible, use works that have a Creative Commons copyright (or get really creative and take photos of your own!). Also, pop a wee copyright attribution on the slide. If done correctly, these do not need to detract from the presentation. (You can see examples of how I’ve done copyright attributions on my SlideShare presentations.)
Practice, practice, and practice some more! Ideally, you can do this in front of an audience that will provide you with practical, constructive feedback to help you improve your delivery. But if that is not possible, consider recording yourself so that you can see how well you do. Or, ideally, do both! It can be awkward watching yourself present, but it can also be a great tool for improving your presentation skills.
Right. Presentation day is here now, and you should be ready to go. Here are four more tips to getyou through the day.
Dress for success on presentation day! For me, that means I wear smart, professional clothes and shoes that I am comfortable in. (And never a new stuff. I like to test-run my important clothes!) I realise that some research students present in their every-day clothes (which might be tattered jeans and a t-shirt) and that is considered acceptable in modern society. However, I personally feel that presenting your research is also an opportunity to present yourself to potential future colleagues or employers. So, put on your Sunday best (or similar) and strut your stuff! (Yes, I realise that sounds a bit snobby. Sorry.)
Remember your pauses and remember that you have specifically built in drop-sentences that you can ditch if you start to get backed up on your 20-second intervals. If you find that you’ve talked faster than your slide changes, just take a big breath and let the slides catch up to you. And if you’ve talked really fast and need more than one big breath, shrug it off and make a joke (practice those ahead of time, too).
Step away from the podium. Unless you need to be near the microphone, step away from the podium and stand where your audience can see you. (But don’t block your slides!) You have practiced this talk. You know your subject. And your slides are all images that will automatically advance every 20 seconds. So there is no need for you to stand by the computer. Be brave; come out and engage with the audience!
Have fun! Presentations can be quite stressful, especially if you don’t have much experience. However, 20×20 presentations are an opportunity to have fun whilst challenging yourself in a laid-back atmosphere. It’s quick and punchy, and it can be a chance to show that you can have a sense of humour when things go wrong.
During my time as a PhD student, I have relaxed my rigid ways so that I can be more in line with how others present 20x20s. That means that I will sometimes use a bit of text (only a bit!). I have also started to use simple diagrams and paired photos on some slides. However, I have decided that I am going to return to the basics with my next 20×20.
Of course, I will also need to revisit my tips above because, as you can see, I didn’t do any planning or practicing for my last go. It wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t great. So, if you want to know what a 20×20 looks like when you haven’t prepared, here you go!
Photo credit: Alicja Pawluczuk and iDocQ Video production and editing credit: Dr Bruce Ryan (no relation)
Building identity in online environments: an Information Science perspective
Abstract: The research presented in this poster is concerned with the ways in which people use information to build identities for themselves online with reference to the themes of personal reputation management. To date these two themes have been under-explored together in the research literature, both in general, and from an Information Science perspective. The poster content shares findings related to three areas of identity building: (1) the creation and use of online personas and identities; (2) the use of anonymity and pseudonyms through information sharing – or concealment – practices; and (3) the ways in which the blurring or merging together of participants’ private and professional selves. This study used participant diaries and in-depth, semi-structured interviews with 45 UK-based participants. The main finding presented here is that individuals present elements of their online persona or personality using online information, but that they do not do so with the intention of building identity. The findings explored in this presentation are contextualised with reference to identity building in the more formal setting of academic reputation management, i.e. through the use of citations.
I will share a digital version of the poster and handouts before the conference poster session. I will also be tweeting during the whole of the event, so be sure to follow me on Twitter (@FrancesRyanPhD).
This past week was spent in Aberdeen attending what I like to call “iWeek”. It included a one-day doctoral colloquium (iDocQ) followed by a four-day international conference (i3)—both at Robert Gordon University.
This year’s iDocQ started off with a series of “One Minute Madness” presentations. The slide template we were given was a bit challenging, but I feel that I managed to make it work for me. (See it here!) The big thing I learned from the quick presentations was that I need to develop a couple new versions of my “elevator pitch”. I am quite good at a layman’s explanation of my research (social media and reputation; people get that!). However, I find it difficult to explain my conceptual framework clearly in a short time span because I have to explain what bibliometrcis and citation practice means. And if I mention altmetrics, it’s even harder! The reality is that I will rarely need to explain that in 60 seconds, but it would be great to find a simple explanation that is true to my research. (Note to self: Sort this out before your viva!!)
After the presentations, we enjoyed a keynote talk by Dr Luke Sloan of Cardiff University. (Via Skype: Technology to the rescue after our speaker’s cancelled flight from Cardiff.) Sloan’s talk was titled “Social Science ‘Lite’? Understanding Who Uses Twitter & What This Can Tell Us About the Social World. It was an interesting look at who uses Twitter and asked questions about how we are able to accurately identify those users. The keynote was very fascinating and I took some great notes that (I hope) will help me as I write up my methods chapter for my thesis. (Which is slowly getting written.)
The rest of the day was spent in a series of workshops and discussions on writing, being adaptable (and accepting rejection), and a Q&A panel. It was a very insightful day, though a bit long for me, leaving me to skip out on the after-event pub session.
The conference was a great opportunity to connect (and re-connect) with other Information Science academics. I was very pleased with the programme’s offerings as there were several papers that were of great interest to me. I especially found great interest in listening to the methods others are using for their research as I am keen to consider new modes of investigation for my own future work. (Though I must finish that darn PhD first!!)
I have been given the opportunity to submit an extended version of the paper for review as a full journal article. I will be working on that article over the next few weeks and hopefully, I will have some good news to share about its acceptance before the end of the year. In the meantime, the slides from my conference presentation are below. (Please get in touch if you have any questions about the presentation or my research as a whole.)
Oh! And as a wee inside joke, I developed a new model to share at the end of my presentation. For those familiar with the contentious topic of “not another [censored] model”, this is a funny thing. Trust me.
Last week I ran a one-day research symposium at Edinburgh Napier University, along with Professor Hazel Hall. The symposium, “Connecting people, connecting ideas” (CPCI), focused on research priorities in Information Science as related to everyday life information seeking and information behaviours in online environments. This event was held at our Craiglockhart campus and was geared towards UK academics, with an emphasis on ECR and 3rd-year PhD student participation.
The symposium was an opportunity for participants to consider how to prioritise themes, and develop ideas for, their future research projects. This was done in three stages as explained below.
The first stage took place prior to the symposium. Here, delegates were provided with an opportunity to share key themes that they felt should be priorities within the field using Well Sorted. Before the symposium, those themes were categorised to create working groups for the day of the event.
The second stage was implemented during the morning session where delegates broke into groups related to the categories determined by the Well Sorted exercise. During the morning session, groups determined the key themes that should be priorities from the larger categories. The morning session also helped us to further concentrate our work, leaving us with just three working groups in the afternoon session.
The final of the three stages took place in the afternoon session. At this point, the delegates discussed the key themes they had previously identified to further develop the ideas with an aim towards future research. Groups worked through potential next-steps that would be needed to bring the ideas to reality.
It is hoped that the knowledge and inspiration gained from the day’s outcomes will be used in a range of future activities including grant proposals, future publications or conference papers, and calls for participation in conferences and seminars. Participants will also be able to continue the relationships they establish with other researchers at the event, which could potentially lead to future research collaborations.
Over the next few days, I will work to format the day’s artefacts into a format that will allow all of the CPCI delegates to access them and interact with them—and interact with other delegates. Whilst I am not able to facilitate these conversations, nor am I able to “force” others to continue the conversations, I am hopeful that these post-symposium tasks will help to encourage others to keep moving forward with the ideas generated during the day.