Why I like to prepare and deliver public lectures

The Oblivious Physicist

There is something particular with public lectures: they are meant to convey, in an hour or so, some — allegedly technical — message to a wilfully listening non-expert audience by precisely avoiding as much as possible any reference to esoteric concepts and jargon.

Such an undertaking appears at first sight to be quite impossible. After all, experts in all kinds of disciplines go through years of hardship and study at school/college/university before they can comprehend the newest or more subtle aspects of their subjects.

But does that matter actually? And, more importantly for the subject at hand, does it matter for a public lecture? I am inclined to say that it doesn’t.

In October 1931 Albert Einstein addressed a letter to the State University of New York at Albany in which he shared his views on education. In this letter he famously summarised his views on educational content by using the…

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Vacancy: Further Maths Area Coordinator – University of Lincoln

The University of Lincoln is a forward-thinking, ambitious institution and you will be working in the heart of a thriving, beautiful, safe and friendly city. The School provides a stimulating environment for academic research, and is based in high quality, newly developed facilities.

We are seeking to appoint a graduate in mathematics or a related subject with substantial experience of teaching Further Mathematics at A-level to take on the part-time role of Further Mathematics Support Programme Area Coordinator for the East of England. This post is part of the national Further Mathematics Support Programme (FMSP).

Working as part of the FMSP team, the post holder will be responsible for the effective management of support for schools and colleges in the teaching and learning of A-level Mathematics and Further Mathematics in Lincolnshire, South Humberside and parts of North Nottinghamshire. This includes:

  • Organising tuition for students when schools and colleges are unable to provide it directly themselves
  • Supporting schools and colleges so that they can offer Further Mathematics without the need for FMSP-organised tuition
  • Supporting teachers with STEP and AEA mathematics
  • Organising activities and events to promote level 3 mathematics to key stage 4 students
  • Advising schools and colleges on their mathematics provision and organising professional development for teachers.

The successful candidate will have substantial experience of teaching Further Mathematics at A-level, outstanding organisational and project co-ordination skills, excellent communication skills, excellent IT skills, the ability to build and maintain good professional relationships, and will be a confident and enthusiastic teacher with a passion for mathematics.

Because the post involves working with children the appointment will be conditional on an enhanced DBS check revealing no bar to working with children or vulnerable adults. The starting date is as soon as possible. The post is offered for a fixed term until 30 September 2018.

This position does not fulfil the UK Visas & Immigration sponsorship criteria for Tier 2.

For further information or to apply online please visit our website at http://jobs.lincoln.ac.uk/

If you have any queries please email jobs@lincoln.ac.uk or telephone 01522 886 775. Please quote the job reference number and title in all correspondence.

TAKING THE FEAR OUT OF PUBLIC SPEAKING

This guest post of written by Barry Coots outlining how he learned to speak in public.

An effective way to develop public speaking skills is to follow this simple method which is suitable for groups working together or as an individual.

A number of subjects that can be described in a series of simple statements that take just a few minutes to say should be compiled.

For example — The correct way to sharpen a pencil / How to change a car wheel / How to prepare and cook an omelet etc.

The topic is not important as long as the speaker is comfortable with the content and understands the words.

The speaker should be prepared for questions relating to the topic at the end of the talk.

The method is as follows —

All of the talks should be made in a formal setting in a serious manner.

  • Step one is to give a talk lasting just one minute to just one other person.
  • Step two is to give a talk lasting just two minutes to just two people.
  • Step three is to give a talk lasting just four minutes to just four people.
  • Step four is to give a talk lasting just eight minutes to just eight people.
  • Step five is to give a talk lasting just sixteen minutes to just sixteen people.
  • Step six is to give a talk lasting just thirty two minutes to just thirty two people.

The best results are usually from a group all learning to overcome their natural anxiety and fear of public speaking.

In this way each person plays a part as both speaker and audience and fosters respect and empathy within the group.

The time between each of the six steps may be tailored to fit into a weekend or may be spread out over a week or as long as the student may wish and time allows.

A simple progress chart should be drawn for each student and achievement to date marked.

At the end of each speech the audience should applaud and congratulate the speaker.

Discussion can take place about areas of fear and hesitancy within the group with the emphasis on positive feedback from fellow student speakers.

Each step should be repeated if there is any fear of progressing  to the next step until the student feels comfortable in progressing to a longer speech and bigger audience.

No specific time constraint should be put upon any student in this process.

All that remains to be said is

GOOD LUCK AND HAPPY SPEAKING

Barry Coots

 

25 things that massive failure has taught me about job interviews

Over the last couple of decades I have been to dozens of interviews for various jobs. Over 90% of the time I failed to get the job. After each rejection I was devastated.

Most of the time I believed that I was the best candidates and the result was somehow unfair. I always found reasons why the outcome of the interview was unfair. In this state of mind I didn’t learn anything. I felt bitter and cheated.

In these times my monkey brain is dominating my thoughts. Normally, after the disappointment wears off I get into an analytical mode. I analyse my weaknesses and come up with rational reasons for not getting the job. In this state of mind I learn and get new insights on how I can do better the next time. Here are 25 things I have learned from massive failure at getting jobs after interviews in a random order.

There are many books on interview skills and you can learn from these. These 25 things are just things that have worked for me to some extent and its just my advice. By all means look around for what works for you. Disregard anything that you can’t apply and focus on things that you can use that will lead to success.

  1. How well you have done in the past jobs is not important. As long as you have done fine, the most important thing is how well you can tell the stories and highlight your strengths in the job for which you are being interviewed. In your current role develop stories of your successes and failures that you can use to impress the panel for your next interview.
  2. Preparation is the key to success is everything and succeeding at interviews is no exception. Put yourself in the position of the panel and try to predict from the information that you have the type of person they are looking for. This will tune your mind to presenting yourself in a way that the panel can relate to easily.
  3. Anticipate the questions that the panel is likely to ask and prepare and rehearse your answers thoroughly. Repetition is the key to deliberate practice at getting better.
  4. When you are being interviewed it is like speaking to an audience. To do it well you have to enhance and refine your public speaking skills. You’ll get better with practice and a bit of foresight.
  5. You are the product and you are selling yourself. You need to give your sales pitch and then close the sale and ask for the job.
  6. Throughout your career and life you will always be selling something. Work daily on your sales skills. Keeping improving and getting to higher and higher level.
  7. Visualise yourself answering the questions perfectly, brilliantly and confidently. See the panel responding to you favourable and enjoying your answers. Focus on the feeling of being successful at interview and getting that job. Try to relax and then visualise when you wake up in the morning and before you go to bed at night and as often as you feel it is beneficial.
  8. All the phases of the interview are important, the arrival, introduction, meeting various people, body language, dress code, answering questions, asking the panel questions, negotiating terms and conditions and pay, leaving the interview and follow of letter of appreciation for being given the opportunity for an interview. These segments need to be rehearsed and perfected separately and then brought together to make the final picture.
  9. Prepare from the perspective that you are already in the role. In your description and examples you are giving the panel a glimpse of your future. You will then be presenting a future success perspective.
  10. Despite the rehearsals and practice you must be flexible and adjust to the situation. Come up with potential deviations from the norm and then practice dealing with these in a confident way. This will prepare you for the unconventional questions.
  11. When you are speaking to a panel member or a person names in the invitation they may be asked about your and what they think of you. The initial contact and informal meetings are also part of the interview or the sales process and need to be planned and practiced.
  12. Amplify your strengths to a point but never lie or over exaggerate. Tell stories that show off your strengths. If asked about your weaknesses then mention ones that could be assets and those where you have learned from and got better.
  13. Always prepare questions that you can ask which highlight your interests in the role and your competence for the role for which you are being interviewed. Have the questions written down and handy so you can look at them before the interview. Do your homework and ask relevant questions.
  14. Research the background expertise of panel members if their names are known. This ensures that during the interview process you can involve them and perhaps give genuine complements. Knowledge of their expertise or activities will make you appear prepared and make you appealing to them.
  15. Be impeccable in your appearance. Take extra care of your hair, shoes, dress/suit, shirt etc. Dress up and look your very best in every way. Have a high standard. First impressions count.
  16. In many cases a presentation is a part of the interview process. Make sure that your visual aids are up to standard and that you can use them easily and are comfortable with them. Be accurate and clear. Check you environment and make whatever adjustments you need to make before the presentation.
  17. Be confident and if you are not feeling confident then act as if you are confident. Move your body in a confident manner and then you will start feeling confident. Your mind will follow your body. Project this confidence in what you say and how you gesture and move.
  18. Do not make things up or fabricate things because experienced interviewers will see through this and if you questioned in depth you will look student instead of intelligent. Admitting something you don’t know shows honesty and integrity. it builds trust.
  19. Develop your presence and make sure you own the space and you grab attention of the panel or audience. Always be in control of what you are saying and doing.
  20. Interview is an opportunity also for you to learn about the organisation, people, culture and products. Ask intelligent questions to get the information you need. If you are offered the job you will need to make a decision. The better informed you are the better will be your decision.
  21. Arrive early for the interview. Give yourself time to take in the surroundings, acclimatise to the place and relax. Never be late. Always aim to get to the place an hour early even if you do not enter the building but are close enough to get to the place in 5-10 minutes.
  22. Develop a rapport with the panel. Match and mirror their body language, tonality and common phrases they are using. People like people who are like themselves.
  23. Always be confident but never arrogant. Be polite and respectful. Don’t talk down to anyone. It’s rude and distasteful.
  24. Be positive about the role and the organisation you want to work for now. Say nice things about your current work place and the people you work with now. Never criticise your current bosses, colleagues, people who work for you or your role. Always look for and present the positives.
  25. Interview is a great learning experience despite the fact that it can be nerve wracking. You learn a lot about yourself, your prospective new employers, market in which they operate and contributions you have made in your current work place. The key to success is to keep improving, learning and persisting until you succeed. Like me you are likely to fail more times than you succeed. The higher your ambition the more failures you will encounter. The more failures you have the more you can learn and eventually you will succeed and prosper. You can have hundreds of failures but you need only one success. Only your successes count, failures will be forgotten.

Share you interview experience with me in the comments section.

20 Things I learned from SpeakUp seminar

For some people public speaking is the No 1 fear and it’s even more scary than dying. For most my adult life I would have preferred to die that speak in front of people. After almost 30 years speaking in front of people I still get nervous and want to get better. I can give a great presentation at time, be average at other times and absolutely terrible occasionally. This lack of consistency and  the nerves drives me to try to become better at the craft. Therefore, I’m always trying to get more information and get better at it. Yesterday I attended the SpeakUp seminar. I learnt several things that you may find helpful.

  1. Start the presentation with a bang because people remember the first 30 seconds of a talk and that’s the time to grab their attention. Make the opening exciting, compelling and memorable.
  2. Use pauses correctly. The moments of silence grab attention and can be used to emphasise certain points. Its a powerful communication tool so use it wisely..
  3. Your audience will have a variety of preferred learning styles which are visual, auditory, kinaesthetic, gustatory and olfactory. All the five senses need to be engaged. The visual people will get out off by those people who are touchy and feely and go very slow. You have to engage all the learning styles because not everyone learns in the same way. You want to be able to connect with and relate with all the people in audience.
  4. Some people are very academic in their approach whilst others speak with power and authority. You need to vary your style because you don’t want to be monotonous and use only one style. The audience will get bored and you’ll lose their attention.
  5. Build rapport with the audience by matching and mirroring their body language, tonality and the words these use. This will enable to respond to you.
  6. Use a feedback sheet to give constructive advice to the speaker that is consistent and focuses on all the important aspects of the talk. This includes contents, body language and tonality. When you act on constructive feedback then you will improve much more quickly because you have points of focus.
  7. Make sure movements are deliberate and purposeful. You move to make a point and not jus randomly because your want to be in control. Random movements conveys to the audience that you are nervous. Control your gestures and movements to make points and engage with the audience.
  8. Practice and record your delivery then you can see what you doing first hand through your own eyes as the audience see you. Work out a plan to focus on elected areas for improvement.
  9. Break down the talk into content (introduction, main points and conclusions/ending) , body language (gestures, movements and poster) and tonality (pitch, volume and pace) and work on each of these separately and then put it all together.
  10. Use a blind fold so that the audience don’t see you and only hear you so that they can give feedback on the sound of the delivery. They can feedback on pitch, variety, pace, volume and emphasis of various words or phrases you use.
  11. End the talk with a sales pitch of the main points. your products, courses and events  that you want to sell to the audience.
  12. Engage and learn from other public speakers and your peer in the field. Talk things over and help each other to improve.
  13. Spend time with people who are better than you. If you are spending time with people and you are the best then you may not learn a lot. However, if you spend time with people better than you then you’ll get inspired to work hard and improve.
  14. Practice, practice and practice. The more practice you do then better you will become if you are focused and deliberate.
  15. Form a support group that you can engage with and discuss things with in a fun and non-threatening environment. If spend time together then you’ll build the momentum to keep on improving.
  16. Break down you talk into small blocks that you can work to improve easily and then put the blocks together to form the whole speech.
  17. Watch the very best public speakers in action and learn as much as can and put the knowledge into practice in your own performance. By modelling the best you’ll get better.
  18. No matter how good you are, you can always get better and no matter how bad you are you can defiantly get a lot better. The main thing to try to get 1% better today than you were yesterday in each aspects you are focused o.
  19. Research your audience and do you homework regarding their background, level of knowledge, age and interests. Using this knowledge you can tailor your talk to address their interests and needs.
  20. Public speaking is such a valuable skill in life than you must commit to getting better at it. Once you are committed then put in the time, effort and perseverance to constantly improve. It will be worth the effort.

If you have any tips and want to share your experience then put comments below or write a guest post for this blog.

It’s the little things that make a big difference

Sticky Fingers – Helping out Debra during putting up research posters in the Isaac Newton Building.

Physics Seminar: David Wilkinson

Study Physics

There will be a physics seminar on Tuesday the 14th of November 2017, 14:00, in INB3305 (Isaac Newton Building): Forensic Physics by David Wilkinson, Midlands Regional Officer of the Institute of Physics.

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Summer Students Excited by Quantum Dots

Experimental Nanophysics & Nanotechnology Group

Dr Matt Booth was delighted to supervise two of our undergraduate Physics students over the summer as part of the University of Lincoln ‘UROS’ scheme.

Niall Garry and Robert Sharp were evaluating the effects of compositional perturbations on the optical and electronic properties of colloidal CuInS2 nanocrystals.

We were kindly hosted for two days by Dr Vin Dhanak in the Nanomaterials Characterisation Lab at the Stephenson Institute for Renewable Energy. Both the valence and core electron states of copper poor CuInS2 and Fe-doped CuInS2 were measured by X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy.

When under UV illumination the copper poor nanocrystals showed up to an order of magnitude increase in photoluminescence emission, while the Fe-doped suspensions showed a systematic red-shift with increased Fe content (see images below).

img_0302.jpgimg_0306-e1509025298838.jpg

Both Niall and Robert are extending the work they undertook during their UROS projects for their third year dissertation projects.

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Summer UROS project: getting to the root of high dental implant rejection rates

Experimental Nanophysics & Nanotechnology Group

Our third year Physics student Hannah Thurlbeck is currently working on the surface characteristics and composition of dental implants with reference to their effectiveness and success rate. Following on from a summer UROS project in which she characterised existing commercial implants with scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDX), she will be depositing nanostructured materials onto similar surfaces for comparison.

Hannah has found that the surface roughness is consistent across all three commercial implants analysed. However, the types of surface anomalies found were not uniform. In two of the implants organic surface defects were identified by the resulting charge build up under the SEM as show in the first image, below. In the third implant tested such surface defects were not found, although there were still defects present as seen in the second image

Organic

InorganicIt was confirmed by EDX that the dental implant was made of titanium as…

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13 Things I learned about Lecturing to Large Audiences from Richard Ellis

I am annoyed at myself for missing Richard Ellis’s lecture on Wednesday 18th October 2017 at the University of Lincoln because I spent too much time with an external visitor from the Institute of Physics. 
I had booked with the explicit intention of attending. To make me feel worse Andrea Floris told me that I had missed an enthralling and extremely useful lecture.
 
Here are some points that you may find useful from the notes circulated.
 
  1. Arrive early. Check out the lecture room and equipment. Get everything ready before the students arrive. Make sure the room is well ventilated. 
  2. Think about how you can maximise engagement with the students.
  3. Too many and cramped slides can lead to diminishing returns. Make the slide clear. Font size large enough for everyone to see from the back of the lecture theatre/room.
  4. Use pauses, exercises and questions for listeners to think, reflect and do. 
  5. Make eye contact with your audience.
  6. Keep hydrated
  7. Pay attention to your posture, movement and positioning .
  8. Check ventilation and lighting in the room.
  9. Use conversational style. This helps the audience to engage.
  10. Tell stories. Give examples to illustrate, reinforce and anchor your points. 
  11. Consider fonts, colours, videos, whiteboards and positioning to get greatest clarity and engagement with the audience.
  12. Break long lectures into smaller chunks. Incorporate stretch breaks, comfort breaks etc. 
  13. Project your voice so that the people furthest away can hear you. Use microphones if necessary.
If you have great tips for lecturing to large audiences then please put them in comments section.