I used to be petrified of public speaking. I would only give talks during my PhD when I absolutely had to. I was always concerned that I would forget something, make a mistake or be asked a question for which I had no answer. I was even nervous about being too nervous!
Then I started a business where I had to present all of the time. My fears went partly because of regularly being in situations where I had to present, but also because I went out of my way to explore ways to give talks. I liked to find out about how to structure talks, particularly the beginnings. I knew that if I could get that right I’d feel good about the rest of the presentation, whether it was ten minutes or two hours.
A few years ago, my good friend Dr Aimee Blackledge shared an effective tool for starting talks with me. The tool is, fittingly, called INTRO and is an acronym to provide structure for the start of a presentation:
- Interest: start by sharing something that will grab the audience’s attention, a fact, an image, a joke.
- Need: say why what you’re going to talk about is important. Why does it need to be addressed?
- Title: share the title of the talk.
- Range: say something about how long you’ll speak for, what you might cover and how you want to handle questions.
- Objective: close your introduction by sharing what you goal is with speaking. Is there something you want the audience to do as a result?
I really like how it helps start things off but also leads to a good overview. There’s a nice logic to it, and done well it can be a great start to a presentation. I think the five prompts also give a great format to create a summary of your research when it’s time to prepare for the viva.
- Interest: how did you become interested in your field of research?
- Need: what need does your thesis address?
- Title: what is your thesis’ title, and why?
- Range: what does your thesis cover?
- Objective: what do you hope that someone would know, think or do after reading it?
Give INTRO a try when you next prepare a talk, see if it helps. Try it too when your viva is on the way to help break down what your work is all about.