As researchers, it is crucial to present our findings and ideas to the world. We DPhils at the Said Business School had the opportunity last week to present our work during an annual student conference. This conference provides a safe, friendly environment to talk about what we are doing, to get feedback and to connect to fellow students and professors. For me, it was the first time I presented my academic work.
Presenting actual research and data this early in the DPhil process is unusual, but I got lucky and my supervisor and his former DPhil student Basak Yakis-Douglas, my colleague at the Centre for Corporate Reputation, provided me with a dataset and helped me produce some initial results, which I could then present last week.
Lots to learn
I only presented for five minutes, followed by five minutes for questions. Since I am at the very start of my research career, I am no expert in the field yet. I also only started my work on this project only around Christmas and I am aware of many small weaknesses in it. However, during this student conference, it is not unusual to present work that is not complete or not perfect yet. In fact, even the research by experienced academics at larger conferences is hardly ever perfect. Conferences in general provide the opportunity to start a discussion and to get feedback.
While the actual presentation helps spark a conversation about our research, improving our work starts way before the actual day of the conference. That’s because in order to present, we need to organize months’ worth of research into a short presentation. This presentation needs to explain what we are doing, why we are doing it and why this is important. Just to illustrate: I had to summarize my work of about eight weeks into five slides. Others had to summarize their work of several years into a presentation of 10 or 20 minutes! Summarizing what you have done into such a short format really helps get to the bottom of the topic and it clearly points to areas where more work is needed.
Inspiration from the work of others
In addition to organizing my thoughts, I learned a lot from just listening to my peers. All of them are doing incredibly interesting research. Even though many of them work in entirely different fields from what I am looking into, I took away lots of inspiration from all of their presentations. I learned what really great presentations can look like and I have a long list of notes and ideas that will help me improve my own project.
In addition to being a great learning experience, the conference also provided an opportunity to connect with professors from around the school and even some alumni. It was fantastic to see so many professors there and to be questioned and advised by seasoned experts of the profession, during the day as well as during a dinner after the conference.
In essence, the conference was a small milestone in our journey, but one that was fun and inspiring to reach. The experience from the day will motivate me to work hard for the next few months until the next conference. Later in the summer I hope to speak in front of a wider academic community. Even though I know the feedback there might be harsher than that of my peers here in Oxford, I am really looking forward to the inspiration and improvements I am sure I will take away again.
Source: Said B School
DPhil Conference – A fun milestone to reach