There’s no doubt that pitching your PhD research in person-to-person dialogue is a great form of persuasion, when you are working at high levels of intensity.
But as you mature in your research and professional life, you’ll find the need to pitch your research or present your findings to larger groups of people becomes more pressing. Can you seamlessly and with simple clarity get your complex message across?
Or will you fall into the trap in which so many highly educated and credentialed academics perish? In other words, explaining the methods of your research, the how, instead of its purpose, the why, and the outcome, or the what.
Speech isn’t the same as writing
Don’t let anyone tell you that speech writing is just writing by another name. True, it shares some characteristics of writing:
- Communication (the art of getting people to act on your ideas).
But speaking has powers that writing lacks. It gives you tone, gesture, movement, emphasis, variety, and timing. And you don’t have to be Abraham Lincoln or Martin Luther King to learn how to prepare and deliver persuasive talks in any format or setting.
Write to be read, speak to be heard
Start with the basics—few people write like they speak, or speak like they write. Even hard-to-fathom teenagers know that a text message needs a different structure to a phone call or a face-to-face. (And if you’re anywhere near my age, be grateful!)
What makes writing and delivering a speech the second most feared fate next to death?
It’s fear itself. Would you believe though, that most of the fears that haunt speaking and speakers are just not true?
These are the five big myths about pitching your PhD research:
- It’s inherently stressful. Most new experiences involve a dose of uncertainty. Remember getting on to a bike for the first time? But like millions before you, you can learn how to write your pitch and deliver it with ease, with the right tools and approach.
- You need an orator’s skill and courage.You just need to give the audience a little value. They don’t want perfection. They want to take away something interesting; a fact they didn’t know, or a new angle on something they did.
- You won’t be able to say everything you need. The best pitches and presentations say only a little. But they say it in strong, clear, plain language. Too many speakers, especially those starting out, try to cram too much into their performance. Just a few main points are all you need. More, and you risk losing yourself and your audience.
- What about stage fright? If you’re well prepared—not over prepared—you’ll be poised, confident, and calm. You’ll have your speech either fully written out or in easy-to-follow notes as a back up. What’s the worst that can happen? You lose your place. So you apologise, and fall back on your script. Often the audience doesn’t even notice. Be honest, and few will really care. Most will actually sympathise. Some will even encourage you with applause.
- The audience wants to see blood. The opposite’s true. They’ve invested time, energy, (and possibly money) in your performance. They want you to succeed. And they don’t need very much to satisfy them. No matter how small the fact or thought, if it makes them think, feel better, or feel differently, you’re a winner.
Lets dissolve those five myths about presenting or pitching your research into four secrets to writing and making a great speech:
- It’s only as stressful as you make it
- You don’t have to say everything—one main idea and two or three supporting points are enough, as long as they give value
- You have great value and profound stories to share
- Your audience wants you to succeed.
There. Who said you couldn’t pitch your all-important PhD?