I went to a great session yesterday at the AAAS Annual Meeting
on how to deliver a one-minute talk — basically, an introduction to yourself that tells who you are, what your research is about, and why it’s important. It’s sometimes called an "elevator speech" —
you get into an elevator with a Famous Scientist and you have the length of an
elevator ride to give F.S. an overview of yourself.
According to the session organizer, Victoria McGovern of the Burroughs
Wellcome Fund, your one-minute talk needs to answer four key questions:
- Who are you?
- What do you do?
- Why are you here?
- Why should I care?
That’s the mechanics of it, but it’s hard to boil years of
work into a sound byte. Don’t be scared, McGovern says. Scientists talk to each
other all the time, and you’ll need to give presentations and deliver your
one-minute talk repeatedly throughout your career. Be calm and remember that even
Famous Scientist was once a grad student.
Next, don’t be afraid to take a few seconds to think about
how what you do is relevant to the person you’re addressing. Relate it to
research or a concept your conversation partner probably already knows. You
should have a beginning, a middle, and an end to what you’re saying, so think
about how those pieces fit together.
When you start, remember that eye contact is good. When
you’re finished, smile. "Not the creepy smile, but a genuine one,"
McGovern quips. This lets the person know that you’re finished speaking, and
it’s a sign that you care about what you do.
Everyone is a little shy sometimes, and it’s OK to start
over if you start off on the wrong foot. Think about how you would summarize
your research, and practice giving your one-minute talk so you’re not caught
totally off guard.
"There will times when you have to walk into a room
where no one knows you, and you want those people to remember you and help
you," McGovern said. So practice ahead of time, be calm, and breathe. And
don’t forget to smile!