I’m participating in something called Forsker Grand Prix, (“Researcher Grand Prix”) which is almost like a nerdy Idol-contest for PhD-fellows. The show is tomorrow, so today is good day to reflect on 11 things I’ve learned so far from this process – things that I wish to bring with me in life.
If you want to come and see the show, it’s Thursday the 29th of September at 6PM at Sentrum Scene – free and for everyone to show up. It’s mainly in norwegian.
1) A mindset of give & learn Go on stage with the mindset and goal of learning something new, and give the audience a gift; your knowledge. That’s a far better focus than to go out there to defend or perform. If I accept that the jury’s comments may guide my further work – rather than trash it, I simply become less nerveous. I also accept that I don’t recessarily have the answer to their questions. The opposite is unfortunately a mindset I know too well; to be scared of feeling dumb, to not know enough (academic environments can be challenging that way), and try to perform. It's not an easy switch, but I think I've come far in working on my mindset, thoughts and attitude.
One of my slides about designing different "rooms for conversations" online… SayNoMore!
2) Being present We have worked a lot on really being present on stage, not just remembering the text and say it. That makes a huge difference, but while practising a text hundreds of times, you can easily loose presence. Kyrre Texnes is a brilliant teacher (and dancer) on this topic – his approach is not so much about “presentation techniques”, but rather on training mentally on finding inner focus and calmness in all kinds of situations. Apparently, you can stop EVER being nervous with this mental training (I ain't there yet, but this is helping…).
3) Embrace the atmosphere/audience “Take in” the atmosphere in the hall. (bad norw-english translation…) Notice your audience, see them. Use them in your content, make it relevant for them.
4) Dealing with fear Find out what I am scared of; For me, the time limit of 4 minutes and a bell ringing when the time is up, was more scary than the room, a big auditorium or concert hall. But I can counter that fear by not seeing it as a threat, but rather as energy to my show; what if the bell rings, speed up and make fun of the last bit. Then the audience might remember me as the energitic one when the bell rang.
5) Safe-note & "It's not that important" I didn't learn this from FGP, but from my previously fellow-PhD-colleague, Sigrun. Before her disputas she showed me a picture of her son, a picture she had with her at the disputas. It reminded her of how little important the presentation really was, that there are other things important in life. When you're at ease, you often perform your best, perhaps due to the absence of fear. As someone else said (translated) It either goes well, or it goes over. My card has images of my boyfriend and our dogs, and says e.g. "Scary faces are often the most interested ones", "Breathe", "Remember to read the words on slides", "They don't have to like it" and "Learn something new".
6) Shaping a positive & safe culture The team around FGP has been very considerate about creating a good environment for testing, presenting and feedback. Nora at Lent were from day 1 focused on how we give feedback to each other (which I don’t think has ever been an outspoken focus in my academic life). This focus on how we communicate was also a topic in my therapy sessions, and it is one of the main things I will bring with me in life, teaching and research. It's about culture; you can distance people or create a tight, great team that builds each other up, rather than tearing each other apart.
7) Network And that brings me to the people I've met – through this shaping of culture, I've met fantastic people with a mindset of not competing against each other, but competing with each other. PhD-fellows from e.g medicin and history has broadend my horizon, and have helped me so much in understanding how I can communicate what I do to people outside of design. (As a designer you might be surprised, but the word "sketch" is not necessarily a clear word for everyone else…) Not just that – they have also given me a professional confidence – they often see more clearly the importance of my work than I do myself… And I'm pretty sure that I'll stay in contact with some of these open and honest people, with whome I share both interests and values with.
8) Tricks from comedy writers I've presented many times to diverse groups of people (I can recommend marketing people and friends who work with research tv-series on TV!), and I have revised the text again and again. One comment was from a guy in a communication department; He said stand-up comedians often use a call-back. As I understood it, is about dropping a hint in the beginning of the talk, then pick it up again at the end, perhaps with a surprising touch. I'm trying it out in my second presentation!
I'm gonna talk about these images of me as pictures, fonts and colours that tells a story about a person, that may give you an image or enforce your prejudice of who I am. … and I've hidden a callback here…!
9) Focus on me I can't do anything with the others, but I can do the best out of my own talk. I've been surprised at how I'm never thinking about beating the others – instead we're a team that's helping each other to make the most out of our own presentation. It is more about daring to stand there and do this scary shit, than it is about competing.
10) Copyrights, images and fonts If it's gonna be on TV, you need to have commercial rights for every picture and font on the slides. I use a lot of pictures and fonts, so the work on contacting people, photographers and portrayed people (in the cases where that particular image mattered – in addition to creative commons licensed images), has taken a lot of time… Do not underestimate if you are a designer dependent on images and fonts! Adobe Typekit allows broadcasting for your synched kits, in addition I asked a norwegian font-designer for permission.
11) Creating surplus & remembering In the final stages, it is basically about making sure you have enough energy to be present on stage, and not using it all on trying to remember the text. If you can remember the text through elements in the room you look at, it may help you in the moment. How do you remember what you are going to say?