Advanced Manual: Technical Briefings
For this speech project, prepare and deliver an 8 to 10 minute briefing. It should contain technical information drawn from your career, profession or hobby that is aimed at the interests and knowledge levels of your audience. Follow the outline presented in the Technical Presentations manual. Don’t neglect effective delivery – employ body language, vocal variety and enthusiasm to make your speech meaningful and interesting. Your opening should capture attention, stimulate audience interest, and state your main message. Include a few primary points that support this message, and illustrate them with appropriate example and data. Your goal in presenting this technical briefing is to create understanding among your listeners and every aspect of your speech should reflect this.
Project 1: The Technical Briefing
I use a Prezi to back up my presentation with content. Delivered first at Cranfield Speakers Club on 26th August 2015
Transcript: My Academic Reputation Development Plan
Some items got dropped and rushed over and these are noted in square brackets [ extra…]
Your reputation precedes you. That means that you can walk into any room full of people that you have never met and be greeted with universal sigh of “oooohhhh”. Your reputation preceded you.
You do not own your reputation it is a social mental construct of people other than you.
Let me tell you another anecdote of two business men setting up a business together. The older man was there to provide the capital and the younger one, with his MBA, to provide the management. When the agreements were signed and the older man handed over a very large cheque he took the younger man to one side and said:
The risks are greater for you. If this business succeeds you will get ALL of the credit and if it fails you will still get ALL of the credit for that. If it fails I will lose my capital, but I will survive and I can replace it. If it fails you will lose your reputation and you will find it hard to replace that.
Toastmaster, fellow Toastmasters and most welcome visiting Toastmasters I am going to tell you about my newly formed academic reputation development plan. I am going to tell you what my career is, the reputation metrics that I have, and my plan to improve things.
My career sits in the middle of a triad. My three degrees of Agriculture, Environmental Science, and Operational Research. Do any of you know about Operational Research? No, well it is the quest for and the science of better decisions.
This graphic from the BBC sums up the very central Research Question that I have been researching for 20 years or so. Farmers have to choose what best to produce given what they can produce from those soils, topography, and climate and what their machinery, labour, buildings, markets, farm size and regulations allow them to produce. What will/ should farmers best do given future change in climate, technology, regulations and markets?
For example, how will farming change given say a tax on manufactured fertiliser nitrogen. Will the policy have its desired effect? Will change cause other counter-intuitive changes that have un-intended consequences as farmers seek to recover their profit in other ways?
An academic’s reputations is heavily implied by the metrics that can be measured and it comes down to three things: Pounds funding earned, PhD students qualified, and papers published. Tonight I am going to talk about papers and that it is publish or perish world.
This chart shows the publication records of my global peer group. Year 1 is when we each published our first paper. You can see that some of us are at the early to mid stages of our careers, whilst others are emeritus professors at the end of 40 year careers. The lines are not sooth. Most of us have a turning point when we get serious about publications. I am a late starter, but so to was the most prolific professor.
Most of you would have heard of the saying that to steal from one person if plagiarism, but to steal from everyone is science. That is true! When a scientist finds something useful in another persons work they cite it in their own and list the source in full in the reference list at the back of their paper. This graph shows the citations that I have received and it can be used to calculate an h-index. My h-index for is currently four, that is four of my papers have been cited four or more times. I am not quite a 5 on the h-index.
To develop a plan to improve my academic reputation I need to consider my strengths, weaknesses, values and vices. It is important to play to your strengths and manage your weaknesses lest they become the Achilles heel that causes disproportionate damage because you placed undue weight on it. A reputations takes a lifetime to cultivate and a rash moment to destroy. You have to be true to yourself as your reputation has to be a natural outgrowth of self.
From my values you can see that I have little inner peace…it is not negative I am not hating myself, but I can react badly to criticism. On the other hand I have a lot of integrity doing the things I agree to do and or care about.
[extra. Of my values it appear I am warm to other people (Love) and will invest in respect, citizenry, and stewardship of my communities (non-violence) The more unbalanced values are low inner peace (vulnerable to criticism), and some elements of lowish conduct (low courage, avoiding responsibility, and being cavalier to detail at times and health and safety). These two weaker areas are more than compensated for by high integrity (nearing perfectionism). [ extra Overall though I am boringly vice free!]
The poor ability to handle criticism doesn’t surprise me. I’ve got examples of rejection emails going back years from Journal editors and some sharp feedback from the odd colleague or client that are still unopened or only read beyond the first line or two. The instinct to kill that episode and move on overwhelms the need to dispassionately consider the feedback and learn.]
On the skill side. I am strong with my domain expertise as well as computing, programming and applied maths. I’ve got improving communication and leadership skills via Toastmasters. However, I need to form collaborations to other scientists top cover to my relative weaknesses in experimental agriculture, socioeconomics and pure maths.
The first part of my resulting reputation development plant is to follow the traditional route of publishing more papers in those journal with a stronger remit, reputation and readership. I need to back that up by disseminating my science in person at conferences, by networking, and by investing in stewardship of my professional communities. My strengthening Toastmasters communication and leadership skills are invaluable with dissemination activities and the thought leadership of my profession.
We now live in a social media era. The combination of my social media skills and my burgeoning Toastmasters communication and leadership skills can help me develop a new and very strong dissemination tool-kit. I can make video and graphical abstracts of my science, engage in academic sites and discussion groups, and develop my own thoughts, ideas, and opinions with blog posts and tweets.
[Extra This is an example of a video abstract from the Journal of environmental research letters. I am sure a Toastmasters version would be different]
To sum it up, I have been a bad Lad, but it is almost not too late to start. Reputations has to be an outgrowth of self (not a fake), but it still needs to be traditionally grounded in peer reviewed papers, but can now have a toastmasters enhanced, social media accelerated dissemination tool-kit.
[ extra There are two thoughts I will leave you with. One from Gandhi “Be the change you seek in this world” that is be the best truest self you can be and also light your candle, but do not hide it under a bushel, let is shine forth and benefit all in the house.]
It was fun delivering , but I let myself down with a few weaker areas having rushed to develop a full presentation from a sketched outline in under 24hrs. I had volunteered to be reserve speaker.
The positives of the talk were that it was: very interesting and informative, had great visuals and Prezi slides, delivered an excellent introduction, was powerful and inspirational, was well structured and fluent, had a strong positive ending, and was revealingly honest.
The recommendations were: avoid standing in the audiences sight lines to the presentation screen, use blanks slides when taking charge of the narrative again, keep a high standard of slide construction, avoid too many technical terms, avoid turning back to read the slide and present to the wall, and finally more time was needed on the development of the plan and less time talking about what I do.
It is challenging doing a technical briefing if you know a lot of stuff. It is easy to show off with detail and dwell on it at the expense of delivering an appropriate well balanced message. Apart from not having the time to get the balance of materials right between the plan development and the earlier part of the talk all other aspects of the evaluation criteria were excellent.
I need to prioritize practicing even if doing last minute reserve speeches. I ran 1.30 mins over (15%).
I got a lot out of this project, not least a deeper harder look at my reputation development plan. There is an art to presenting technical information in a succinct and engaging fashion. I feel much more confident that I am closer to that now.
References & Reading