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BLOG: How FameLab has improved my confidence and communication

We asked Jonny Brooks, our 2014 FameLab UK contestant to write a blog about how FameLab helped with his confidence and communication. Here’s what he had to say…

I started my DPhil at the University of Oxford (a DPhil is the equivalent of a PhD) back in October 2012. At that time I already had some experience of public speaking. I worked as a student ambassador during my undergraduate degree, which meant that I would go to various schools around Hampshire and the Isle of Wight and give presentations to school children.

One day towards the end of 2013 I was scrolling through my Facebook feed when I saw an advert for FameLab. I learned that it was a competition where contestants had to give a 3-minute presentation about a topic in science, maths, engineering or technology (STEM subjects) without the use of visual aids (e.g. Powerpoint slides).

The presentations would be judged on the 3 C’s: content, clarity and charisma. In that heat I gave a talk on Euclidean geometry in mathematics and I was lucky enough to go through to the regional final in Oxford. I would eventually go on to win the regional final and get a runner-up position in the national final which took place in the Bloomsbury theatre in London.

The experience of competing in FameLab completely changed the way I thought about science communication. Being forced to explain mathematical topics such as Fourier transforms, Euclidean geometry and coupled sets of differential equations to a non-specialist audience in 3 minutes without the use of Powerpoint slides makes you focus on the specific message that you want to get across.

By far the most important skill that I developed was the confidence in my ability to present complex topics in front of experts. No longer do I worry so much about someone else’s level of experience over my own. I know that no matter who I present in front of, I can make my presentation clear and engaging. I don’t need to rely on slides that I could hide behind.

Experts, including academics, are just people. This means that they want to be engaged, they want a presentation to be clear, and they want a presentation to be fun. Knowing this fact inspires me to think about all presentations in the same way that I would go about creating presentations for FameLab back in 2014.

These skills have become essential for me to this day. In October 2016 I gave a presentation in London about a data science project. After the talk, I was approached by two members of the audience who would ultimately become my employers. They mentioned that my presentation was so clear and engaging that I should consider a job at their company. One month later I accepted an offer from them and the rest is history.

I’ve come a long way from the inexperienced scientist I was back in 2012. Aside from maturing as a researcher and scientist, I have developed arguably the most important skills that I now possess: confidence and communication and it all started with my decision to enter FameLab.

Take part in FameLab 2019

Feel inspired? Read more below about how to enter the 2019 competition!

Apply for FameLab 2019