Communication collaboration spreading the word

15 Dec 2022
Communication collaboration spreading the word


SAHMRI’s scientists are spreading the good word about their work to broader audience thanks to a dynamic collaboration with Rostrum.

Rostrum is an association of public speaking clubs, founded on 21 July 1930. But it’s much more than a set of public speaking exercises. Membership of a club brings you into a community of people who help to develop your confidence in effective meetings, presentations and communication.

For the past 18 months, Rostrum’s Gabi Proc and Andrew Downing have been assisting SAHMRI’s fledgling Rostrum group with regular practical sessions.

SAHMRI staff and students are keen to hone their presentation skills so that they can communicate their work at an appropriate level to a range of different audiences – technical presentations at biomedical conferences, pitches to funding bodies and philanthropists, and seminars and information sessions publicising re-search projects and outcomes to the wider community.

Gabi and Andrew are working closely with a number of SAHMRI champions, including Alexandra James (Lifelong Health Collaborative Partner) and Ben Lewis (Lifelong Health Science Writer/Editor), who have recruited members and scheduled the fortnightly sessions. The year’s program was designed to meet participants’ needs and catered for both novice and experienced speakers.

The Rostrum reps have emphasised the development and practice of communication and presentation skills, with business kept to a minimum. English is not the first language of a significant number of participants. This language and cultural diversity was a bonus; while developing greater speaking confidence, presenters have shared captivating stories of their own life experiences.

Each session incorporates a 30-minute instructional module to develop skills and techniques which maximise the effectiveness and impact of a presentation. Topics have included:

  • Developing a success mindset
  • overcoming fear and controlling nerves
  • facilitating meetings
  • speech structure
  • introducing and thanking speakers
  • hooks to engage an audience
  • how to present digitally on Zoom
  • The expert's guide to scientific seminars

Another highlight has been the topic of storytelling conducted by Ben. Universally used in movies, this technique heightens the interest and excitement of a presentation by using a narrative structure; introducing a conflict, challenge or obstacle; recruiting heroes to help overcome the problem; and culminating in a satisfying conclusion. It’s amazing how this approach can lift an ordinary presentation to one which has a clear purpose, engages the audience and brings them on the journey, injects freshness and energy, delivers a positive outcome, and leaves everyone feeling that this was an enjoyable, valuable and worthwhile presentation.

In the practical part of each session, in addition to everyone participating in an icebreaker, two or three researchers deliver longer presentations on either a general topic or one related to their work.

Many wonderful biomedical science presentations were given, often well-illustrated with PowerPoint slides, to explain the work undertaken at SAHMRI, provide evidence of research findings and outcomes, and demonstrate how these will lead to “better health for all”.

SAHMRI presenters have been enthusiastic about the opportunities these Rostrum sessions provide and have successfully incorporated our coaching feedback.

This new venture by Rostrum has focused on an industry sector employing many staff and students with a common interest and need. The instructional, practice and feedback sections have been tailored to their specialist areas. The initiative is an example of a way in which Rostrum might evolve and target new audiences, utilising its expertise and experience to meet the communication, professional and personal development needs of members in business and industry, as well as the wider community.