This week I delivered an interactive workshop on communicating research impact at the University of Sheffield.
We collaborated with Eunice Lawton, Researcher Development Manager (Engineering) at Think Ahead, a development programme for early-career academics.
The aim of the workshop was to offer an easy framework for creating a 2-page visual summary to showcase their expertise to non-academics.
In this post, I share how we structured the interactive workshop on communicating research and a few lessons I took away from the day as a facilitator.
1. The structure of our interactive workshop on communicating research
The workshop was split into four parts.
First, we started by looking at the reasons why researchers should bother communicating research.
Academics are under increasing pressure to deliver more, so why should they incorporate the communication of research impact as part of their tasks?
We started with a reflection exercise and then covered five main reasons why communicating research beyond academia would be beneficial. Reasons included staying in control of the narrative, standing out from the crowd and increasing the visibility of their work.
Second, we covered the steps to take before creating a visual summary. Mainly, focusing on the aim and audience that the researchers wanted to engage with. This is a crucial step in the research communication process. It generates empathy with the audience by seeing their perspective and understanding their point of view.
After this, we got stuck into the structure of the visual summary. For this part of the workshop, I challenged the researchers to explain their work in 60 seconds. I encouraged them to state the problem the research is addressing, how they are going about answering the problem and answer the question of why people should care. I originally thought I would have to pick on people to come up to the front to present, but I was pleasantly surprised that we had volunteers willing to share their work.
‘My favourite part of the workshop was explaining my research in 60 seconds.’ Florentine Weber, Department of Geography
Finally, the workshop ended by looking at dissemination ideas for the visual summary. The ideas I provided spread from very easy to more time-consuming but worth it for the visibility. It was great to see what people gravitated to, what was new to them and what was known already.
2. The interactive aspect of our workshop on communicating research
19 out of the 26 participants mentioned the ‘interactivity, group work and practical tips’ as their favourite aspects of the workshop.
My main aim in these workshops is to make them as interactive, engaging and fun as possible. I’m personally not fond of events where there isn’t enough time to absorb the learning and reflect on the new information received. Therefore, I try to create plenty of opportunities for participants to reflect and practice the skills learned.
‘My favourite part of the workshop was that I got to practice the skills mentioned in the workshop and feel like my skill level has increased substantially.’ Fadl Isa, Computer Science
The workshop had 10 opportunities for interactivity. These ranged from working in pairs and group work to individual work, presentations and question time.
‘I really liked the content and the way it was presented, as well as the interactivity and getting to know and work with others.’ Zusej Fernandez, Management School
The workshop also had two breaks. When we restarted the session, I asked them to sit in a different place. Although reluctant at first, they had a chance to speak with more people on the day and keep the conversation fresh.
Lastly, each participant was given a workbook that followed the structure of the presentation and helped them stay engaged and focused. 4 participants mentioned the workbook as the aspect they liked most about the workshop.
Favourite part of the workshop? ‘Everything, but the handout was very useful to take notes.’ Sandra Barragan, Department of Geography
3. Reflections on our interactive workshop on communicating research
As a facilitator, I felt a vibrant and engaging energy in the room. I was also happy to read that half of the participants noted the ‘atmosphere, content and delivery’ as their favourite aspects.
‘My favourite part about the workshop was the ambience. We had fun while seriously thinking about ourselves, what we are doing and why, if it is interesting to anyone else.’ Judit Horvath, Department of Chemistry
‘I liked the fact that it was so interactive and with lots of ideas about improving communication.’ Daniel Olgvin, Department of Material Science and Engineering
Moreover, 18 out of 26 participants gave us a 5 out of 5 for ‘how satisfied that were with the workshop’, with the remainder 8 giving a score of 4. This makes an overall score of 4.7!
I mostly enjoyed engaging with the researchers and learning about their journeys.
Many thanks to Eunice and the University of Sheffield for hosting us.
Mihaela encouraged participation throughout and the practical exercises were extremely interesting and useful. The visual examples and the workbooks provided helped attendees to develop and present ideas on how research could engage different audiences. I would definitely recommend this workshop and Mihaela as a trainer.
Many thanks to Isabel, our Business Development and Operations Assistant for the media support on the day.
If you want to find out more information about the workshop, costs and availability, please get in touch.