Everyone tells researchers that they need to get their research “out there”. They should be promoting themselves and engaging with the public via YouTube, twitter, blogs and the like. Some researchers can crack on with this and take to it like a duck to water, especially the written format. But videos…well for some that’s an entirely different matter. In an age where it can seem like every 10 year old is a YouTuber, what do you do if you’re not confident on screen or if you haven’t got the first idea of what makes a good video?
The Think Ahead team recognised that this can be a challenging area for some and offered a group of researchers the opportunity to participate in a Success on Screen workshop delivered by Vox Coaching. During the course of a single day researchers arrived, some looking more than slightly nervous at the sight of a camera, to learn how to make a short video to ‘sell’ their research to an audience. Following the obligatory introductions and awkward first glimpses of themselves on screen, the group learned what looked good on camera and what didn’t. We’re not talking clothing, although a shirt which strobes is a tad distracting for the viewer, but body language, eye contact with the camera and constructing the content of your frame. For example; sitting next to a potted plant in order to inject a bit of interest into your shot is all well and good, but when it looks like it’s sprouting from your head, not so much.
I observed the group of researchers develop in confidence throughout the day. They stopped approaching the task like it was a presentation and instead tried to develop a conversation with their audience. They were engaging and informative and really thought about the messages they wanted to convey. At the end of the day 12 people who were complete novices at the beginning of the session had all managed to film enough footage to edit into a three minute video about their research. You might think that this wasn’t much to show for a full day out of the office, but each participant now has the skills to take the communication of their research to the next level.
So what did they do next? Well, some are participating in the Think Ahead: SURE scheme and have used their newfound skills to advertise their projects to potential summer students. Feedback from the student applicants indicates that a major factor in their decision to apply to the Think Ahead: SURE scheme was that the videos demonstrate the passion each researcher has for their work. Other participants have plans to create short videos to upload to their personal websites and introduce their research to a wider audience.