12 tips for a 20×20

Please note: I am working to migrate Just a PhD to a new URL, www.FrancesRyanPhD.com. This site will be fully archived by the end of 2018.

Last week I presented at the 8th annual Information Science Doctoral Colloquium (iDocQ). The presentation was in the form of a PechaKucha, also known as a “20×20”. These presentations can be quite fun and exciting, especially if you are a confident and experienced communicator. However, if you are neither of those things, the idea of presenting 20 slides for 20 seconds each (for a total of 6 minutes and 40 seconds) might be a bit daunting.

This presentation style seems to be quite popular in the academic world—at least here in the UK. However, there seems to be a lot of confusion over what a 20×20 is (as well as what a 20×20 isn’t). And that’s where this post comes in.

OK, then. What is a 20×20? In the original form, they should be delivered as 20 images, on 20 slides, that each run for 20 seconds.

However, it seems that the image part has been overlooked by many in academia. That means that you see a fair amount of 20×20 slides that are filled with text. Lots and lots of text. Of course, that is not always the presenter’s fault. Often times, the person organising the talks doesn’t know what a 20×20 is meant to be (or has decided that they don’t care) so the only instructions presenters have is that they must have 20 slides over the course of a 6-minute, 40-second talk. Some organisers might insist that the slides automatically forward every 20 seconds, and others might not realise that little rule.

Ideally, 20×20 slides should be image-based no text. However, this can be a bit challenging for academics who are accustomed to developing text-heavy presentations. (But don’t do that. Really. Less is more!) Slides should not have any animation or transitions. Slides should also be set to advance automatically.

But why? It’s because the slides should be there to add visual stimulation to your intellectually stimulating words. They should not require your audience to read and should never include information that is vital to your talk. So, skip the detailed graphs and tables. (A 20×20 talk should be able to be presented without slides and still be just as informative.)

Heck, even for those of us who enjoy presentations, the idea of such a restrictive format can be a challenge. And with my habit of ad-libbing and going on wee rambles about a sub-point, it’s even more of a challenge! But I have learned a few tricks to make 20×20 presentations a bit easier to plan, prepare, and present.

Before you start putting slides together, have a think about what you’re going to say.

  • Prepare your spoken words before you prepare your slides (talk it out and time it as close to 6:40 as possible). Think very clearly about the theme of your presentation and start to build out your presentation. Your talk might be a single, descriptive storyline (Mary had a little lamb) or it might be a series of interconnected points (research questions, methods, findings, and conclusion). Either way, you are sharing a narrative that must flow together with ease.
  • Break your spoken words into 20-second segments (based on ideas or themes) then practice those segments. Think of your talk as sections or chapters and put breaks into the talk as those sections come along. Don’t forget to include pauses in each segment. Those pauses will give you time to breathe whilst your audience has time to process the information you’ve just shared with them.
  • Give each point or idea the time it needs! You can use more than 20 seconds for a point, but all points should fit with multiples of 20 seconds. If you need a full minute to make a point, take a full minute! But give some thought to how you’re delivering those 60 seconds so that you can switch-up the slide image to reflect the point every 20 seconds. For example, if your point is about social networking sites, you might change the image to reflect a different aspect such sites every 20 seconds, as it relates to the point. (You cannot use the same slide twice; each slide must be different.)
  • Make a note of non-vital sentences that can be dropped if you start to fall behind. This will allow you to catch up a bit, even if it takes 2-3 slides to get back in synch. A few seconds’ lag-time is hard to avoid for beginners, but it is better to drop sentences in the middle so that you finish on time. That way, you still have time to deliver your punchy, vital concluding sentences—and maybe even take a theatrical bow!

Now that you’ve got your talk ready, you can begin to illustrate it. Yes, this is the point when you can start working on your visuals.

  • Think of your talk as a visual storyboard. What one image illustrates each 20-second segment? If you’re talking about Facebook, there are lots of obvious options. But if you’re talking about something a bit vaguer, this is your chance to get creative and whimsical. For example, if you’re talking about the history of modern beer production, you might use a photo of hops growing on a trestle.
  • Find image inspiration on Google or Flickr. If you don’t know how to illustrate a point, enter some of your keywords into a Google image search to see what comes up. This can help you to see how others visualise your concepts, which might also help you to think more creatively about how you present your work in the future.
  • Mind your copyrights! It is easy to just swipe images from the Internet, but be mindful about copyright infringement. Wherever possible, use works that have a Creative Commons copyright (or get really creative and take photos of your own!). Also, pop a wee copyright attribution on the slide. If done correctly, these do not need to detract from the presentation. (You can see examples of how I’ve done copyright attributions on my SlideShare presentations.)
  • Practice, practice, and practice some more! Ideally, you can do this in front of an audience that will provide you with practical, constructive feedback to help you improve your delivery. But if that is not possible, consider recording yourself so that you can see how well you do. Or, ideally, do both! It can be awkward watching yourself present, but it can also be a great tool for improving your presentation skills.

Right. Presentation day is here now, and you should be ready to go. Here are four more tips to get you through the day.

  • Dress for success on presentation day! For me, that means I wear smart, professional clothes and shoes that I am comfortable in. (And never a new stuff. I like to test-run my important clothes!) I realise that some research students present in their every-day clothes (which might be tattered jeans and a t-shirt) and that is considered acceptable in modern society. However, I personally feel that presenting your research is also an opportunity to present yourself to potential future colleagues or employers. So, put on your Sunday best (or similar) and strut your stuff! (Yes, I realise that sounds a bit snobby. Sorry.)
  • Remember your pauses and remember that you have specifically built in drop-sentences that you can ditch if you start to get backed up on your 20-second intervals. If you find that you’ve talked faster than your slide changes, just take a big breath and let the slides catch up to you. And if you’ve talked really fast and need more than one big breath, shrug it off and make a joke (practice those ahead of time, too).
  • Step away from the podium. Unless you need to be near the microphone, step away from the podium and stand where your audience can see you. (But don’t block your slides!) You have practiced this talk. You know your subject. And your slides are all images that will automatically advance every 20 seconds. So there is no need for you to stand by the computer. Be brave; come out and engage with the audience!
  • Have fun! Presentations can be quite stressful, especially if you don’t have much experience. However, 20×20 presentations are an opportunity to have fun whilst challenging yourself in a laid-back atmosphere. It’s quick and punchy, and it can be a chance to show that you can have a sense of humour when things go wrong.

During my time as a PhD student, I have relaxed my rigid ways so that I can be more in line with how others present 20x20s. That means that I will sometimes use a bit of text (only a bit!). I have also started to use simple diagrams and paired photos on some slides. However, I have decided that I am going to return to the basics with my next 20×20.

Of course, I will also need to revisit my tips above because, as you can see, I didn’t do any planning or practicing for my last go. It wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t great. So, if you want to know what a 20×20 looks like when you haven’t prepared, here you go!

Photo credit: Alicja Pawluczuk and iDocQ
Video production and editing credit: Dr Bruce Ryan (no relation)

Building identity online at #ASIST2017: A poster presentation

I am leaving for Washington, DC tomorrow morning to attend the 80th Annual Meeting of the Association for Information Science and Technology (ASIST), where I will be presenting some of my research in the form of an academic poster. The presentation will be held during the President’s Reception on 30th October (6.30-8.00 pm) at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City (Independence Level, Center A).

The poster is titled “Building identity in online environments: an Information Science perspective” and was co-authored with my PhD supervisorsPeter CruickshankProfessor Hazel Hall, and Alistair Lawson. The research draws from some of the findings from my doctoral investigation on the use of online information in the management of personal reputation. Specifically, this work concerns an aspect of information behaviour and use related to the creation of online identity, which is addressed in one of my four research questions: How do individuals use information to build identities for themselves online?

This qualitative study used participant diaries and in-depth, semi-structured interviews as data collection tools. It involved 45 UK-based participants, and data collection took place between October 2015 and January 2016.

The content of the poster shares findings related to three areas of identity building. These are:

  • The creation and use of online “personas” and identities
  • The use of anonymity and pseudonyms through information sharing – or concealment – practices
  • The ways in which private and professional selves blur or merge together in online environments

The main finding presented in this work is that individuals present elements of their offline lives using online information to showcase different “personas”. However, they do not do this with the intention of building identity. The findings explored in this presentation are contextualised with reference to identity building in the more formal setting of academic reputation management, i.e. through the use of citations.

Please stop by the poster session to learn more about this research and my doctoral studies as a whole. You can also find me during the coffee breaks or other social activities.

Not in attendance? Don’t worry! As part of my “professional persona” I like to share information online. The links below will allow you to engage with my presentation from afar!

⇒  Poster download (low-res for online viewing)

⇒  Poster handout with further information

⇒  Full abstract from Edinburgh Napier University’s repository

If you have any questions about this research or the doctoral study as a whole, please contact me.

If you wish to interact in real-time, you can ask me questions on Twitter (@FrancesRyanPhD) or follow along with the conference using the hashtag #ASIST2017.

iWeek in Aberdeen: #iDocQ2017 and #i3RGU

This past week was spent in Aberdeen attending what I like to call “iWeek”. It included a one-day doctoral colloquium (iDocQ) followed by a four-day international conference (i3)—both at Robert Gordon University.

The first day the sixth annual Information Science Doctoral Colloquium (Twitter hashtag: #iDocQ2017), a doctoral colloquium for Scottish PhD students. The annual colloquium is organised by students at Edinburgh Napier University, the University of Strathclyde, the University of Glasgow, and Robert Gordon University.

This year’s iDocQ started off with a series of “One Minute Madness” presentations. The slide template we were given was a bit challenging, but I feel that I managed to make it work for me. (See it here!) The big thing I learned from the quick presentations was that I need to develop a couple new versions of my “elevator pitch”. I am quite good at a layman’s explanation of my research (social media and reputation; people get that!). However, I find it difficult to explain my conceptual framework clearly in a short time span because I have to explain what bibliometrcis and citation practice means. And if I mention altmetrics, it’s even harder! The reality is that I will rarely need to explain that in 60 seconds, but it would be great to find a simple explanation that is true to my research. (Note to self: Sort this out before your viva!!)

After the presentations, we enjoyed a keynote talk by Dr Luke Sloan of Cardiff University. (Via Skype: Technology to the rescue after our speaker’s cancelled flight from Cardiff.) Sloan’s talk was titled “Social Science ‘Lite’? Understanding Who Uses Twitter & What This Can Tell Us About the Social World. It was an interesting look at who uses Twitter and asked questions about how we are able to accurately identify those users. The keynote was very fascinating and I took some great notes that (I hope) will help me as I write up my methods chapter for my thesis. (Which is slowly getting written.)

The rest of the day was spent in a series of workshops and discussions on writing, being adaptable (and accepting rejection), and a Q&A panel. It was a very insightful day, though a bit long for me, leaving me to skip out on the after-event pub session.

The rest of the week was spent at the Information: Interactions and Impact Conference (Twitter hashtag: #i3RGU). This was my second time attending the biennial international conference so I knew to expect great things!

The conference was a great opportunity to connect (and re-connect) with other Information Science academics. I was very pleased with the programme’s offerings as there were several papers that were of great interest to me. I especially found great interest in listening to the methods others are using for their research as I am keen to consider new modes of investigation for my own future work. (Though I must finish that darn PhD first!!)

My contribution to the conference was delivering my paper, “Blurred reputations: Managing professional and private information online”. The paper represents a portion of my PhD work, though rather than addressing a specific research question it shares findings related to one aspect of reputation: the ways in which private and professional lives blur online.

I have been given the opportunity to submit an extended version of the paper for review as a full journal article. I will be working on that article over the next few weeks and hopefully, I will have some good news to share about its acceptance before the end of the year. In the meantime, the slides from my conference presentation are below. (Please get in touch if you have any questions about the presentation or my research as a whole.)

Oh! And as a wee inside joke, I developed a new model to share at the end of my presentation. For those familiar with the contentious topic of “not another [censored] model”, this is a funny thing. Trust me.

Next up in my PhD journey:

Online identity at #NapRes17

Yesterday was the Edinburgh Napier University’s Research Conference. Based at our Craiglockhart campus, the conference was designed to bring together research active staff and research degree students from across the university. (Read up about the event on the Twitter hashtag #NapRes17.)

My contribution to the conference was an academic poster (full-size version). The poster was part of my larger doctoral study that investigates how online information is used in the management and evaluation of personal reputations. This work follows the tradition of research into everyday life information seeking (ELIS). My doctoral investigation considers four research questions (below). This poster addressed the first of these questions “How do individuals use information to build identities for themselves online?”.

Research Questions:

RQ1: How do individuals use information to build identities for themselves online?

RQ2: How do individuals use online information to build and manage their reputations?

RQ3: How do individuals evaluate the identities and reputations of others based on the information available to them online?

RQ4: To what extent do individuals actively practise identity and reputation building and evaluation online?

The findings consider three areas of identity building. The first is related to the creation and use of online personas and identities. This includes an examination of three broad information behaviours that participants use for the portrayal of online identities. The second area investigates the use of anonymity and pseudonyms through information sharing – or concealment – practices, as well as some of the motivations behind these behaviours. The third and final area presents the ways in which the blurring or merging together of participants’ private and professional selves, as well as their online and offline environments, are used for building identity online.

I provided handouts to the people who engaged with me during the poster session. I was also very pleased that even more people approached me after the session to speak about my research. (They were provided with a copy of the handout, too.)

Whilst my poster was only showcasing a small snapshot of a small part of my thesis, the conversations the poster prompted were wide-reaching. I spoke with other conference-goers about my larger doctoral investigation, online reputation and management practices in general terms, and the idea of altmetrics—which I’ve given two talks about in recent weeks. My poster also served as a conversation starter about my post-PhD plans (still in flux), potential public engagement activities, and even possible grant opportunities.

Personally, I feel that these wider conversations are one of the best reasons to present an academic poster. Yes, it’s about the actual research presented in the visual artefact. But it is also about the conversations and connections that visual artefact creates in a wider sense. And for me, this one little poster made the conference a huge success—because I connected with others.

The rest of the conference was very interesting, too. It included a selection of staff and student presentations, breakout working groups, networking, and a research showcase at the end of the day. Sadly, I didn’t win any amazing prizes (as I did last year) but I did win a bit of confidence about my PhD research and my academic future.

I’ll end there as I have just finished delivering a research symposium and I’m a bit tired after the excitement of the day. But I’ll share a post about that shortly… followed by tales from next week’s conference in Aberdeen.

But if you would like to ask any questions about my poster or my larger doctoral investigation, please feel free to comment below or contact me privately.