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Excellence Everywhere - National University of Ireland, Galway

Excellence Everywhere - National University of Ireland, Galway

Practicing the Talkn

Practicing the Talkn Practice your first few sentences until you candeliver them without much thought—this will helpyou dive into your speech even if you are nervous.Do not memorize your whole talk and give it as arecitation, though—know what you plan to say, butrelax and talk with your audience rather than tryingto say exactly the same words that you practicedin the weeks before the talk.n On your own, go through your talk over and overagain, paying attention to the words you will useto go through your slides. If there is a slide whereyou find yourself saying too much or going off ontangents, work particularly hard on moving crisplythrough the data.n Feeling balanced is important to your selfconfidence.Plant your feet firmly on the floor.Break habits such as rocking from foot to footor pacing.n Make sure you speak clearly and loud enough forall in the room to hear.n Practice what you will do with your hands so thatyou can break fidgeting habits or the urge to putthem in your pockets. A computer mouse and apointer may be enough to keep you from fidgeting—butbe careful not to play with either of them.n Even though you may have done all the workpresented, it is important to sound modest in yourpresentation. Begin by saying, “The work I will tellyou about today was carried out while I was inthe lab of X at institution Y.” Then, describe eachresearch slide in terms of “we.” Be aware thatsomeone may interrupt and ask, “Yes, but what ofthis work did you yourself do?”n Practice how you will answer questions. It is okayto answer “I do not know” if you then offer tofind out about any matters of fact later and followup with the questioner. It is a great opportunity tomake contact with faculty after the interview.n If you feel you will be very close to your time limit,practice deferring questions to the end of thesession so that you are not derailed by questionsthat come up during the talk.Delivering the Talkn If you can, arrive early, so that you can becomecomfortable with the room and can be sure thatyour slides are set up and ready to go. You mayhave to ask your host to get you to the room withenough time to prepare.n The most nerve-wracking moments are just beforeyou begin your lecture. Focus on your breathing.Make every inhale and exhale deliberate to controla rapid heart rate. During the talk, pause and takea breath between transitions, just as you would ifyou were telling a friend an exciting story.n Greet your audience and tell them you are gladto be with them. Make eye contact with a fewaudience members who seem eager to hear whatyou have to say. Then plunge in.n Let it show that you are excited about your workand the chance of perhaps landing a job workingwith the people in front of you.n Do not worry if some people close their eyes orseem uninterested. Continue to give your talkas you practiced it, making eye contact with thosewho are listening closely, even if those whoremain engaged are the students, not the leaders.Answering Questionsn Repeat the question for the audience, as it is oftendifficult for other audience members to hear aquestion asked without benefit of a microphone.Then take your time answering. If you need to, buysome more time by asking for a restatement ofthe question. In a pinch, give an interpretation ofwhat you think the questioner wants to know. Takea moment to think through what you want to sayand then speak, formulating a beginning, middle,and end for your answer. Give your best answerand stop. Rambling on only conveys uncertainty.n If questions are slow in coming, take the initiativeby pointing out some aspect of your work that youpassed over quickly but that you believe warrantsthe audience’s attention. This gives you a chanceto use some of the material you edited out of yourtalk. You may generate a whole new line of questioning.In case you need to go back through yourslides to a particular one in order to clarify a point,arrange to have your slides accessible during thediscussion period.12 excellence everywhere

n If challenged, listen to the criticism and give ajudicious response. Do not become defensive.Questions are more often asked because thequestioner does not understand something thanbecause he or she is trying to make a fool of thespeaker. Give the other person the benefit of thedoubt. If the criticism seems unfair or there isa disagreement about a matter of fact, standyour ground politely. You might suggest a followupdiscussion later. Even if the person is beingquite aggressive, you can still try to end the backand-forthby suggesting that you agree to disagreeuntil you can talk later and find out where you aremisunderstanding one another.Giving an Informal TalkWhen you visit a potential employer, you mayalso have an opportunity to give a less formalpresentation during which you can offer detailedinformation about the direction of your futureresearch. Ask before the interview how long youshould talk and make sure that in fact the moreformal seminar is not expected.For an informal talk, give a brief overview of yourresearch agenda (which you may have includedin your job application as a research proposal).Include in this talk both your short- and long-termobjectives—both the purpose of the work you aretalking about and what you would like to accomplishduring your career. For example, you may beworking on a very detailed signaling pathway, butthis work is a small part in your greater interest inhow one microbe causes disease. Understandinga tiny phosphorylation event may seem esoteric;putting it in the context of your long-term interestin Dengue fever helps even the least trained personin the room understand why you are doing the work.Once you have established a sense of perspective,state several specific problems you want to workon in the next few years, and explain in detail howyou plan to proceed. Be prepared to write on awhite board and bring along an overhead projectorsheet or two of preliminary data that will demonstratethe feasibility of your plan. Show that youare familiar with the details of any new techniquesyou may need to master. Be sure to convey to youraudience why the work is important and how yourwork can make a difference to your field.Expect to be interrupted. This kind of talk is achance to show that you can think on your feet,that you respect others, and that you will be aninteractive research colleague. Even if you feelpressured, do your best to keep things friendlyand to keep any disagreements light. Saying “Youmay be right, I may be right—what is the bestexperiment for settling the matter?” is a goodway to turn a disagreement back to the questionerand to the audience.Meeting Potential Colleagues. If part of theinterview process will include one-on-one conversationswith other researchers who will be at ornear your level, it is important to show interest intheir work and ask lots of questions. Rememberthat these potential colleagues are looking forsomeone who will benefit their own work, as wellas someone who is a good scientist, and often assomeone who will be pleasant to have as a neighbordown the hall. You may be taken out to dinnerby some of the faculty. This is a chance for themto evaluate you as a future colleague and for youto determine whether you would enjoy workingwith them. Be yourself during these events, butalso be appropriately respectful and deferential toyour would-be colleagues.Depending on where you are applying, you mayalso have a chance to meet students or othertrainees working there.Concluding Your VisitTypically, your visit will conclude with a conversationwith the head of the institute or departmentto which you are applying or with the committeein charge of hiring. Once the visit is over, it maybe time to wait patiently, because the institutionmay be interviewing other candidates. In themeantime, it is customary in many places thatas soon as you return home you write a formalletter addressed to the individuals you met duringyour visit, thanking everyone for their hospitalityand reiterating your interest in the position. Evenif that is not the expected protocol in the placeyou are looking for a job, few individuals aremortified to receive a formal note of thanks andyou have little to lose by sending one. If duringGETTING STARTED: Finding and Moving into a Job13

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