Earlier on this year I presented at the British Conference of Undergraduate Research, at Bournemouth University's Talbot Campus. I was the first student from my art school to ever present at conference, so I've decided to write a bit about my experience of applying, planning for it, and presenting, for those of you thinking about giving it a go!
I had taken part most of the scholarship activities I could while I was studying my illustration degree. I signed up to the HCA scholarship email list as soon as I was aware about it and by the time I even heard about BCUR, I had already taken part in c-classes and been published by the Association of Colleges. These positive experiences gave me the confidence to apply to BCUR. I spoke with Sarah Jane Crowson, the person who does all the scholarship stuff (and who had previously been my critical studies lecturer) about my two second year essays and she helped me pick which one I would submit.
The main part of the application was to write an abstract. This is basically an overview of your research. I had never written an abstract before, which was great, because it meant that even if my application was unsuccessful I would have learnt something from the process!
The college paid for my travel, hotel, and conference ticket, and I got forwarded all the information I needed. I got the choice of
- Traveling into Bournmouth the day before my presentation and traveling home the afternoon I presented
- Travel in on the morning and go home the day after
I decided the travel the day before so I didn't have to stress about being late. It also gave me the opportunity to get readjusted to Bounrnemouth (which I haven't visited in over a decade). On the morning before I presented, I went to the presentations in the room I was schedueled to be in, so I could get used to the environment.
Preparing my presentation
After turning my essay into an abstract for my application, I now had to turn it into a presentation. The two big challenges here were
- My presentation had a 10 minute time limit with an extra five minutes for questions, whereas my essay was about 3000 words long
- My audience was going to be a wide range of undergraduates and university staff, whereas the essay had been read by people with a very specialist knowledge of my subject area
I wasn't sure where to start, so I just started deconstructing my essay and looking for the common threads that ran through it. Luckily, I hadn't thrown out my notes, so I could use these to see how I built it up in the first place.
I had a look at the images I had used inline in my essay and the arguments and analysis that directly related to them. I personally found that these images were the most useful part of my essay to carry over into my presentation, because it gave me good visual content for my slides, and therefore meant the audience was less reliant on me to narrate my research.
Where I did put verbal information on my slides, it was usually an important quote that featured in my research. By putting it on the slide I created a visual version of it I could refer to, and this helped me break it down and explain it to the audience, in the same way I did with the images.
This was the bit I was most worried about, but it was actually fun and a nice way to end the whole journey! I mainly got asked broad questions about things I'd briefly referenced, which I think was the same for everyone else's presentations. It was a really friendly atmoshpere because most of us were presenting for the first time!
If you have any more questions, drop them in the comments below! My next blog post will be about the research I presented, so bare with me for now if that's what you're going to ask about!