One of the most important things I always knew I’d be developing while doing my PhD was my ability to speak in public. It has been clear to me from the outset that if I can’t communicate my research then there’s no point in doing it, especially as one of my main reasons for choosing to research curse tablets was to raise their profile in the study of Roman history.
Over the past couple of months I’ve had plenty of opportunities to practice talking to a range of different people about what I’m doing, thankfully with generally positive results! I’ve also been experimenting with different presentation styles to try to find out what I’m most comfortable with.
In May I gave a 20 minute paper to the OU Classical Studies department at their work in progress seminar, which I scripted beforehand. That’s also how I planned the 1 hour talk I did at Corinium Museum in June. The Corinium talk was much more nerve-wracking, as it was the first time I’d spoken for that long, and also the first time I’d talked to an audience of paying customers! Both went really well, and there were some great discussions afterwards with people who seemed to be genuinely interested in what I had to say. At both I focused on the curses from Roman Britain, which is the material I know best at the moment, and so is what I feel most confident in talking about.
In June I also spoke at the Arts Faculty postgraduate research student conference at the OU – once about my curse tablet database, and once about my work with the Brilliant Club. I didn’t script either of these short talks and I felt more comfortable delivering them because of it. My natural style of presenting is quite animated and familiar, which I feel I lose when I’m reading from a script.
The problem I have with talking from notes, rather than a script, is that I tend to go off on tangents and not stick to time. My enthusiasm gets the better of me, and I keep remembering more and more things I want to talk about. It might be a bit of a hangover from when I was a museum tour guide, when I remembered my tour by associating all the information with the objects in the collection and my route through the space. Just seeing things and their relationships to other objects would act as a trigger for the information I needed to remember. When this is translated to a formal presentation setting I think it can come across as chaotic or amateurish so even though the delivery might be less natural and comfortable, I think scripting my talks in future is the way forward.
I’m going to upload the work in progress and Corinium talks to my page at Academia.edu, so if you missed them you can still find out what I said!
If you have any presentation tips for me, or want any advice, leave a comment below 🙂