How good are you at communicating your research?

What is your response when a friend or relative or colleague says, ‘So, tell me about your research’? Do you do a sharp intake of breath and think, ‘here goes…….’ Perhaps there’s a point in the conversation when you see their eyes glaze over and clear signs that they have switched off. Maybe you flounder to a halt at that point or perhaps you valiantly carry on regardless.

Being able to ‘bottom line’ your research is an essential skill for researchers but it’s hard. Communicating the essence and key points in a way that anyone can understand takes time to learn. We are so passionate about what we are doing we feel the need to include every detail to demonstrate the rigour of our work. We are totally embedded in the research culture and may not think about the language we use.

To truly engage people with research we need to think creatively about how we talk to a non-specialist audience. How we achieve a level of clarity which makes their work accessible to all. The temptation is to try to tell the whole story of the research from beginning to end and that probably isn’t what’s required.

With an increasing focus in academia on the impact of research researchers are needing to expand their communication skills beyond the usual academic papers and conference presentations. There is an increased trend towards using media such as blogs, videos and animations. The emphasis on the co-creation of research demands the use of a more inclusive discourse. So, we are taking on this challenge to the Royal College of Occupational Therapists Annual Conference 2018.

The 3 Minute Thesis Challenge (3MT)

This is a well-established international competition, developed by the University of Queensland aimed at PhD students. Its focus is on supporting researchers to talk succinctly about their research in a way which engages a non-specialist audience.

In England, the 3MT is now an annual competition with Universities holding local heats which feed into a national final.  With the use of a maximum of 1 slide participants are required to communicate their research in 3 minutes. The presentations are judged against specific criteria and awards are given for the best presentation. If you’re studying for a Doctorate think about it for a minute. One slide and 3 minutes. Could you do this?

I have certainly been to international conferences where, at the end of the week, some of the posters have been selected to give a presentation in the main auditorium. They have been given 3 slides and 3 minutes. If you were given this opportunity how would you use those 3 slides? What would you say in 3 minutes?

So, Tell Me About Your Research RCOT2018

At conference this year the UK Occupational Therapy Doctoral Network are organising an event similar to the 3MT challenge as a fringe event.  An open call was sent out for expressions of interest from any doctoral or post-doctoral researcher attending conference.

From the submission  5 have been selected and set the challenge of presenting their research topic, its importance and its relevance to occupational therapy in 3 minutes.  In a departure from the formal 3MTC we have not allowed the use of any powerpoint but have encouraged presenters to be as creative as possible (the use of poems, songs, props etc.) in the time they have.

We are grateful to the Elizabeth Casson Trust for supporting this event. This has enabled us to award 2 prizes – one for the best presentation as selected by a small panel of judges and one for the best presentation as selected the audience.

If you’re at conference it would be brilliant if you can join us. It will be fun, informal and informative and you may even pick up some tips about how to bottom line your research.

The fringe event is on Monday 11th June starting at 7pm – 7.45pm in Room Meeting Room 1A.

We’d love you to come and join us to support the amazing people who have put themselves forward to do this.