PowerPitch —communicating your PhD research for maximum impact

Not long ago, we joined a meetup for PhDs wanting to learn how to commercialise their research.

There were a lot of concerned faces in the room as we learned that over 7,000 postgraduate research students had graduated that year, most of them doctoral students.  Only five percent would find jobs in their field of expertise.

We left knowing their ability to pitch their unique value could literally determine their future.

Attention – a scare resource

Attention is an increasingly scarce resource in our our brains. So it doesn’t matter how world-shattering a piece of research may be, unless it can be powerfully communicated to capture attention, people can tune out after just eight seconds.

In 2009, after three decades in marketing communications, we used the right ratio of story and statistics to build a world wide community of more than 20 thousand people, who continue to help orphaned children in Africa today as a result. We’ve unpacked this experience to develop PowerPitch and have now with more than 300 professionals, individuals and PhD students pitch and tell their stories as powerfully.

Three common communication problems

In doing this work we’ve discovered some common problems. They:

1. Struggle to work out which of several competing messages to focus on that will summarise their value, so they include them all, leaving their audience overloaded
2. Use jargon, believing everyone will know what they’re talking about
3. Don’t use stories as THE connecting component in their communication’s toolkit.

The PowerPitch solutions

PowerPitch is a solution to these problems as a process that starts with clarity, because:

• A clearly articulated purpose reassures a listener they’re an authority in your field
• A well defined intention leaves them in no doubt about what they want their listener to feel or do
• Their stories humanise their work, leaving a listener leaning in, wanting to know more.

Opportunities for PhD researchers and PhD co-ordinators

PhDs researchers invest in years of research, and the stories that surround it deserve to be told.  In this one day PowerPitch workshop, they learn how to apply the context for their pitch – why, for whom, and what matters – and how to express their unique value.  Then they can develop the stories that support it.

It’s a life skill that once learned can be employed in every form of communication.

Our intention is to help them unearth and tell purpose driven stories in their pitch, because we listen, recall and act on stories.  Such a pitch is more likely to make a significant impact on those who can help translate their research into reality.

If you are an CRC, ARC or university Communications Manager who would like your team of PhDs do the PowerPitch training, contact sandy@sandymcdonald.com to find out how we can tailor a workshop to suit your conference or training event.

Watch Chuhao Liu, 2018 winner of the Cooperative Research Centre Association award showcasing early career researchers.

If you are a CRC, ARC or University, download this PowerPitch Training brochure.

What others say

The event went so well, with a special thanks to you and Roger.  I’ve asked the students to provide me with feedback, and so far they’re all singing the praises of the PhD pitching as their more beneficial activity, which is terrific! Katie Rizzo, Communications Manager CRC Railway Manufacturing

Sandy and Roger delivered an excellent day’s training for a group of 20+ PhD student working in and around the field of audiology.

The content was varied, fun, always challenging and pitched perfectly for the audience, and as the day evolved our students grew in confidence and skill. Sandy and Roger’s professional backgrounds lent a real weight to the content and their nurturing approach bought out the best in group.

We ended the day with a series of pitches, with each student employing elements from the days learning’s that resonated with them to express their knowledge and passion in a way that was both consummately professional and utterly engaging. Thank you both, the feedback has been great! Jane Sewell PhD, Communications Manager CRC HEARing

Sandy recently worked with twenty of our PhD students to help them develop techniques for presenting their research in relevant and compelling ways.

It was a fantastically hands on workshop and all of the students finished with a pitch of their research that they could use and reuse in different ways. Every single one of them completed the process with a vast improvement in understanding their key messages and, as a result, ability to talk about their work.

I was really blown away with how much progress can be made in such a short space of time with the right insights and coaching expertise – and Sandy has this in spades.

She has a rare ability to inspire people and explain things effectively whilst also creating a comfortable environment for learning and trying things out. The results speak for themselves and the feedback on the experience from the students has been overwhelmingly positive. It has been a real pleasure and I look forward to working with her on future initiatives. Jacqueline King, Communications Manager Excellerate

Sandy spent a day with our very sceptical PhD students. Within that short space of time she won them all over, and transformed their typically very academic talks into passionate, engaging pitches to industry. She enabled them to think outside their comfort zone.

At the conference in the following days the students were challenged with presentations and meetings with industry partners. The positive feedback from partners and their ability to now engage with the research would not have been possible without Sandy’s guidance and enthusiasm. She has transformed the way we now talk about our research. Nathan Quadros, Manager, CRC Spatial Information