We all want to give an engaging presentation with confidence, but many of us feel that we don’t fulfil our true potential. Overlooked by many, the so called soft skills of communication offer a solid platform for an individual to present themselves, their exciting data, or important message.
I am a Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Medicine and have been in academia for over 25 years. I have come to appreciate that acquiring a few essential skills can transform you into an engaging speaker, speaking with confidence and enthusiasm. Last year I attended an external workshop on communication skills, partly funded by an Athena SWAN Bursary from the Clinical School, and it brought home to how a few choice pieces of advice could transform an individual’s ability to communicate effectively.
In collaboration with the Athena SWAN team in the Clinical School we decided to run a communication workshop to showcase these soft skills to time-strapped women who could spare a lunch hour digesting the information I had to share. Our first workshop was very successful and I was spurred on to delve deeper into the art of communication. I also began to appreciate how the use of my outreach experience with local schools brought other ideas on presentation skills into my workshop curriculum. I was able to ‘cherry pick’ all the best hints and tips that I had gathered over the years including the work of psychologist, Amy Cuddy who has shown that you can affect confidence by manipulating your physiology. The biggest surprise for many participants of my Athena SWAN event is learning that the key to becoming an effective communicator is simply to present a confident version of themselves. Improving your body positioning and your nonverbal skills are crucial and a few additional tricks can be employed to enhance your status and memorability.
I have also worked outside the university as part of our outreach work to put together an evening workshop at Lucy Cavendish College for almost 50 women participants who were members of CamAWiSE. I was excited to be there and the response was fantastic.
We all appreciate that career growth necessitates presenting your ideas to others and for many people this will be an intimidating and stressful process. We hope that though the Clinical school Athena SWAN team ‘Cake and Communication’ sessions, we can provide more opportunities for women to learn how to become better communicators. Everyone should have the opportunity to present the best version of themselves to an audience or interview panel and we hope that increasing these opportunities will enhance Equality and Diversity within the University.