Nausea, sweating, shaking… symptoms of an oncoming flu, or pre-presentation nerves? We’ve all been there when faced with the daunting task of presenting to our peers/seniors/clients. It’s an integral part of working in research, which AQR sought to address in a recent Breakfast Bites: Whose slide is it anyway? Using improv to present with power.

As a relative ‘newbie’ to the research scene, I went along thinking that I might just sit and learn from other, more experienced colleagues. How wrong could I be? From the start Lucy Taylor (On Your Feet) had us plunged into an interactive group task — trying (and failing) to remember the names of fellow attendees. This does not bode well for the future.

It all ‘went a bit Pete Tong’ until she gave us permission to make mistakes, teaching us concept one of improv: Let go! The group immediately loosened up and the hours that followed were a fun and engaging experience for all present. From power posing to storytelling, we were taken on a journey of improvisation, learning to apply the three core principles in novel ways.

1. Let go
2. Use everything
3. Notice more

While the course provided the scope to explore these in a fun and safe space, it also grounded these skills in real-life examples. ‘Letting go’ of your preconceived ideas about what people are thinking while you present. ‘Using everything’ around you to deliver the best possible debrief on the day, including that difficult question from a seemingly bemused client. ‘Noticing more’ of what your client really wants to get out of this debrief. This course was about empowering you to own the presentation space and your behaviour within it.

As a researcher who is a relative novice at presenting, this session helped me to see that it’s ok to ‘give it a go’ (and fail miserably), as long as you’re open to being flexible, engaging and present in the moment. Also, it was pretty good fun — not often you start your work day by telling the story of the time you, Noddy and Michael Jackson went to Buckingham Palace for tea.