How to stand out at research showcases

The SGSAH annual research showcase is just around the corner. If you’re doing a PhD in the arts or humanities, regardless of your funding source, this might be just the opportunity for you to present your work with funding of up to 1000£ for related costs. But how can you best capture your (PhD-)life’s work to attract attention and garner interest in your topic? Here are three tips to make your work stand out and get most out of the showcase.

Catchy title

You’ve probably been told multiple times in life not to judge a book by its cover. And while this piece of wisdom applies to most cases, the question remains, why the cover didn’t measure up. Why did the author write an amazing book only to slack off when it came to the title, which is the first thing many potential readers would come in contact with when introduced to the book. Surely it would make more sense to put at least as much effort into the creation of the cover. 

The same applies to how you frame and present your research. In the past months or years, you have worked hundreds, maybe thousands of hours on your research. You have dug yourself into the deepest rabbit holes to create new knowledge. It’s a challenge to make this work (in progress) sound appealing to others without getting too much into the technicalities and jargon of things. But this is the biggest rookie mistake and precisely where you lose interest, or frankly just confuse everyone. 

Surely you have heard some version of this phrase before: “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one.” I think this applies well to trying to present your work without having done any prior prep work. Sometimes you have to take a big step out of your rabbit hole and understand your work at surface level. Once you’re able to break down your work, you will be able to find the simple words to describe it best to people who may not be familiar with your field. Of course, this means omitting many details but what you’re trying to do in the first instance is to attract peoples’ attention and interest. Once you have secured that, you can dive deeper into it together.

From last year’s showcase; Photo by Alan McAteer – – From Charley Matthews’ Showcase

You and your research are one

Your PhD is likely to be the work associated with you for a significant portion of your life. And of course, the noble thing to do as a researcher is to put your ego aside and focus on your work being at the forefront and getting all the attention. After all, you’re conducting your research to help further science and grow all existing human knowledge. 

However, always being selfless will not get you very far in the competitive academic job market. Therefore, it is only sensible to make sure that your work can always be associated with you. Think of yourself and the research as one. Valid in their own right but inseparable. Now take it a step further. Since you’re trying to get people excited about your work, think of it as a brand, which makes your materials your merchandise. This means it must all be clearly identifyable and traced back to you. It can be as easy as making sure that all materials you give away always include your name as well as social media handles, website, and academic profiles. But maybe you want to walk the extra mile and create a logo and consistent brand identity across all your outlets and social media channels. Be creative and think of all the ways that will help people connect you to your research.

From last year’s showcase; Photo by Alan McAteer –

Work in progress

Most research at the SGSAH annual showcase will be works in progress. When showcasing work, it may be easy to fall into the trap of creation an illusion of completion. For instance, by only presenting finished papers or perhaps completed and realised designs – anything that has been wrapped up neatly and is ready to be presented at your convenience. 

Think about it though: What better opportunity will you get to address future work and potential issues that might arise as part of it? Rather than focusing on what you have already accomplished, shed some light on the unexplored space that you are trying to tackle next. By doing so, you will get the opportunity to talk about where you want to take your research and perhaps this will facilitate more beneficial conversations and give room for different perspectives and novel insights. 

When you own the fact that your work has not yet been completed, you also open yourself up for advice which could even turn into future collaborations or maybe help grow your network.

Apply for SGSAH showcase now

Get funding of up to 1000£ to showcase your work. Applications are open until March 24th 2023.

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