Speaking of – and for – Science

12102013935[1]Just under a month ago we celebrated our first birthday. The party began on Thursday 10th October with a sold-out lecture on Particle Physics by Professor Brian Cox, introduced by Dr Heather Williams, and sponsored by the Ogden Trust.  That evening, 600 people (including over 200 school and college students) were treated to fascinating science explained well, in a friendly and fun-loving atmosphere. It was so very ‘us’.

A Storify of the event by soon-to-be-Dr Clara Nellist, Manchester Particle Physicist, can be found here.

The following Saturday afternoon, we continued our celebrations by offering 11 female scientists (and science groupies) training in ‘Performance Skills for Public Speaking’ by Gia Milinovich.

Dr Orla Kelly, a Design Engineer with a PhD in Experimental Physics, was amongst them. Here, she reports back on her experience of the afternoon and what she learned…

“As part of their 1st birthday celebrations, ScienceGrrl hosted an afternoon workshop on performance training,run by Gia Milinovich. I have given presentations at many academic conferences, and I have been getting more and more involved in STEM outreach events in the past couple of years but, no matter how often I speak in front of a crowd, what age the audience is or what the subject is, I am always cheek-chewingly nervous. So when I found out about the workshop, I had to sign up. In reality I had no idea what to expect, but I went in hoping to get two things:

1. More confidence and better tactics when speaking in front of groups of people;

2. New ScienceGrrl buddies!

The workshop was held in a great little studio in London (the Jerwood Space). It was a small group, with about ten of us there, making it the ideal size to mingle and find out what everyone else does and why they joined ScienceGrrl too. Everyone was a stranger to me at the start of the day (other than ‘twitter friends’) and I think that made it easier for the times when I had to snuffle around like a pig attending a dinner party, or channel my inner Al Capone in pretending to be a gangster. Gia was a very gentle, polite and patient leader to all of us nervous, bumbling scientists. The workshop started with breathing exercises and voice work before moving on to more interactive activities to teach us about character and presence. Many aspects made me feel uncomfortable or nervous, but in a room full of friendly strangers this was the best way for me to face my fears and have a lot of fun doing it (I laughed a lot that afternoon!).

From my experience, it’s easy to identify what other people do ‘wrong’ in their presentations (nervous laughter, scratching their elbow, talking too fast) but it’s not so easy to identify these things in ourselves – particularly the nervous ticks, like repeatedly saying ‘um…’, playing with our hands or chewing our cheeks. Gia’s workshop has provided me with the tools to be more self-aware when speaking in public. I think I will always be nervous when giving a talk, but I now have the right techniques to control my nerves and I’m much more confident that I can focus my energy into getting my information across in an effective way.”

And of course, we all went out for eats and drinks afterwards.

More lectures and workshops are planned – keep an eye on our events listing for details!