Postgrad Study: Was It Worth It …

… now you want a job? I delivered a webinar a couple of weeks ago on this topic for LinkHigher, the new jobs board for postgrads.

If you didn’t take part, and want to hear what I had to say, they’ve now posted the recording on YouTube. This is the first part of 5. If you finish watching this part and want more, click the link to LinkHigher’s YouTube channel and you can see the rest.

If you want to know what a webinar is, just scoot on down past the video and all will be revealed.

What’s a Webinar?
It’s a talk or seminar delivered over the web. Participants had to register to take part, and at the appropriate time, were directed to a website which allowed them to watch and listen to the presenter (mainly me, in Manchester, with some audio interjections from Dan Colegate, in Durham, who was the organiser). Participants were also able to type in comments and questions as we went through.

The format was a 25 minute Powerpoint talk which you got to see, as I shared my PC desktop with the world, and hear, as I was wearing one of those call-centre headsets (no video of me in our case, thank goodness).

The talk was followed by me answering the questions which streamed in from the participants, wherever they were, and which appeared in real time on my version of the desktop. As a participant, you normally can’t see everyone else’s questions. Only the organisers and presenters can do that, so if you’re taking part, don’t worry that other participants will be laughing at your spelling mistakes.

What did it feel like?
It was an interesting experience, if any of you are asked to do something similar, either as presenter or participant. Once I got started it seemed much like talking to a small group of my usual postgrads, even though I couldn’t see anyone and they were spread out across the world.

Luckily I’d arranged for Helen, one of our tech-savvy careers consultants, to work alongside me monitoring the question stream, so I could concentrate on talking. Once the first part of the talk finished, Helen guided me to which questions to tackle first, through a system of post-it notes and pointing at the screen & miming (because we were on-mic).

Before long, I felt as if I was on the radio (so tempting to say “… and after the news, I’ll be back with a question from Yannis in Athens about academic careers in Brazil …” – but I resisted). It’s a bit scary as it’s live, with no chance to edit out mistakes, but you can’t do that in a face-to-face presentation anyway.

Would I recommend taking part in a webinar?
As a participant? Definitely, if there’s a topic in which you’re interested being covered elsewhere in the world. I’d also recommend taking part in one sooner rather than later, even if you’re not that interested in the topic. This means you know the form and won’t feel inhibited about interacting when you want to take part in one which really matters to you.

And as a presenter? Absolutely. I was scared stiff beforehand, but once it got started, it felt as natural as any of my normal face-to-face presentations. I’d definitely recommend having a helpful friend alongside to help manage the text streams, and to have a practice dry run (we did, though it didn’t stop last minute panics). I also did far more preparation work for this than most other presentations, scripting it much more tightly than I would normally.

Most importantly though, the sense of satisfaction when you push yourself to do something scary, and you survive, is priceless.

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