A High Jump For Science

On July 3rd I had the wonderful opportunity to chair a panel discussion at the Royal Society’s Summer Science Exhibition. The discussion, A High Jump For Science, was about science and technology in sport; sport science is a discipline young in its years compared to subjects such as medicine and astronomy, but over recent years the pursuit of excellence in sport has driven it on. As the London 2012 Olympics are getting closer we were asked to look at what developments have been made in this field in terms of both engineering and medicine.

I’m still not sure as to how I was selected to chair the event, but I am so very glad that I was! It was a great evening, and I met some fantastic people. I was joined on the panel by Prof Steve Haake, Dr Vicky Tolfrey and Prof Sanjay Sharma. Each are experts in different aspects of sports science and technology, giving us a wide variety of opinions and things to talk about.

The Royal Society released the video of the discussion this morning, and if you have the time, I would very much appreciate comments and constructive criticism on how I did! It was my first ever public event, and as you may well notice (if you watch the video) I was VERY nervous. It wasn’t just the fact that it was at The Royal Society – the U.K.’s most highly established Science Institution, but also that it was being videoed.

I had done my prep – I had read all the blurbs about each speaker, gone over the introduction in me head a hundred times, but my nerves got the better of me. There is a lot of “umm”-ing in the introduction, and also a lot of hand-waving. I was much more comfortable when we got the the discussion part; it was as if there was only the four of us on the stage talking amongst ourselves.

Steve Haake gave me some great feedback directly after the show: he suggested that I introduce each speaker just before they go up to present, then there would be no awkward silences. He also said that I needed to be more assertive when it came to taking questions from the audience. Please do give me any other comments and feedback, I really want to learn how to improve on this, I know I have a fairly long way to go!

I would like to thank the panelists for making me feel a bit more comfortable and relaxed whilst I was there. I do hope we meet again!

Do follow Steve (@stevehaake) and Sanjay (@SSharmacardio) on twitter if you are interested in their specific subjects.

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2 Responses to A High Jump For Science

  1. Chairing/compering an event requires a very different skill set in addition to the ones you also need as a presenter/performer. Most difficult of all, it requires near psychopathic levels of cockiness AND the ability to listen to everyone at once. Tips:
    1) It is YOUR event. What you say goes. You just need to tell everyone explicitly what that is.
    2) Stagecraft is really not much more than knowing exactly what will happen now and next and, again, telling everyone explicitly what that is .
    3) When you select a question from the audience, select the next one by eye contact and a nod, sending the second mic over if necessary, while listening to the first question. Ask a follow up if one occurs to you.
    4) The ending is key, everyone likes nice closure. Contibutors, sponsors, organisers and audience should all get a nice thank you before soliciting a final round of applause.
    Just my two bob …

    • Thanks Mark – I shall take all that on board! Hopefully I will have a chance to try it out again. I was watching you compere at the CSF and you make it look so easy! I found the hardest thing was that I had to concentrate an insane amount on what people were saying in order to ask the proper questions – it was exhausting!

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