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Melissa Marshall’s “Powerful Presentations”

Melissa Marshall

Melissa Marshall Teaches Faculty How to Become Powerful Presenters

The Research Leadership Academy (RLA) has spent the past few years creating impactful faculty-led and -driven events across NC State’s campus. The most recent RLA-hosted event starred science communicator Melissa Marshall. Melissa is the founder of “Present Your Science,” a coaching service to institutions and industry leaders in science-based fields or research.

The ninety-minute talk focused on how researchers can create “Powerful Presentations” that resonate with broad audiences while still conveying technical knowledge. The 120+ participants learned new skills via lecture, Q&A discussion, small-group exercises, and analysis of video from other speakers.

One of the highest-rated sections of Melissa’s presentation included a short clip of Dr. Hans Rosling, Professor of International Health at the Karolinska Institute and a statistician. She rated Dr. Rosling a “rockstar presenter.” Melissa challenged the audience to, “think about the last time you saw an e-mail or a flyer for a statistics presentation and you thought you had to get there early so you were able to grab a good seat.” Dr. Rosling’s passion for his work makes his presentations standing room only.

“For passion to be effective it has to be authentic.”

Melissa advised that you need to have passion in order for your presentation to be engaging to your audience. Passion could also be demonstrated as energy, enthusiasm and sincerity. “We value presenters who seem like they care.” However, Melissa did caution that, “for passion to be effective it has to be authentic.” You have to make sure that you act true to your character. Every individual has a unique way that their passion shines through.

Melissa went on to utilize small-table discussions and provided documents asking the participants, “how can you become an audience-centered speaker?” The participants answered the following questions regarding an upcoming audience on their own and discussed at the table:

  • Who are they?
  • What do they know?
  • Why are they here?
  • What biases do they have?

One of the biggest challenges scholars and researchers will run into is the “diverse technical audience.” How do you give enough depth for the experts in the room to feel satisfied by your content without losing audience members who have no background or knowledge of the information you are presenting? Melissa suggested using points of common ground. Defined as, “something that everybody in the room, regardless of background, can understand.” Returning to points of common ground throughout your presentation satisfies audiences of different backgrounds.

The presentation concluded with a study of telling your research story. “The biggest opportunity for infusing storytelling into your talks is to think much more about the head and the heart connection.” The presenter needs to help their audience feel an emotional response to their message. Invoking an emotional response will allow your audience to identify key takeaway items from your presentation by thinking back to the moments they could relate to your story.

Want to hear more about what Melissa had to say? You can watch her presentation on the RLA intranet site “Powerful Presentations” (Unity ID and password required).

The RLA will be hosting many more events geared towards faculty mentoring in the coming years. For Spring 2019, the focus will be on Interdisciplinary Research. The RLA will host a Lunch and Learn titled “Opportunities and Challenges of Interdisciplinary Research” on Wednesday, Feb. 27 beginning at 12:00 p.m. They will also be hosting a University Research Symposium on Thursday, March 21 focused on “Cross- and Multidisciplinary Work.”

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Melissa Marshall Event