Public speaking and communication support for public contributors
14 December 2023
Dr Rob Grieve is Training and Capacity Building Co-lead at ARC West. He’s recently led authentic public speaking workshops for public contributors. In this blog he reflects on the experience.
As an academic with a mild stammer, involved in research and teaching, I have always been aware of my own public speaking fears when standing up in front of 100 plus students in a lecture hall. This has in turn increased my empathy for and awareness of students and people with a fear of public speaking.
I reduced my fear of public speaking and improved my teaching skills by acknowledging my fear, moving away from a focus on slick presentation and perfection. Instead, the focus became more on being an authentic public speaker, which is the approach used in my teaching, public speaking workshops and resulting book Stand Up and Be Heard.
Since moving to ARC West in February 2023, through talking to colleagues from the PPI team I realised there’s a need to support public contributors in this area. Communication is vital for effective public involvement in research, for both researchers and public contributors.
The NIHR’s public involvement standards identify communication as one of six areas key to improving the quality and consistency of public involvement in research. Public speaking is an important part of effective communication. However, it’s an activity that many people find challenging.
In October 2023 we advertised for our first authentic public speaking for patient and public involvement (PPI) contributors online workshop, held on 29 November. The response was very positive with many more people applying than we could offer a space to, so we added another workshop on 12 December.
Participants in both workshops were very engaged with the topic and shared their ideas and thoughts on public speaking in the group activities. Following the active engagement from public contributors in the first workshop, we increased the workshop time from 90 to 120 minutes. The feedback from both workshops was very encouraging and we plan to run more regular sessions in 2024.
We also plan to run face to face public speaking workshops at the ARC West offices. These will give those who attended the initial online workshop an opportunity to practise their public speaking skills. Participants will present on a topic relevant to their public involvement role, in a supportive environment. The facilitator and fellow participants will give constructive feedback.