Thursday, 2 June 2016

Boring to Baywatch

Guest post by Jane Johnson, PhD Researcher at Teesside University

The title of this post is perhaps not what you’d expect to hear at an academic conference but then again not all conferences broach the tricky subject of ‘sexy communication’.

The Hoff
This month I was invited - and funded thanks to help from Teesside University and the Royal College of Chiropractors (RCC) - to present an outline of my PhD at the Researchers’ Day of the European Chiropractors’ Union (ECU) Convention in Oslo. The theme for researchers was Down from the Ivory Towers: Breaking Down the Barriers Between Research and Clinical Practice.

As a clinician-turned-researcher and someone who has sat through countless presentations by researchers, this was a theme close to my heart. It felt like a win-win because not only was the RCC getting to see where its money was being spent but - as a fledgling researcher - I gained a valuable insight into the world of research and particularly into the opportunities and challenges presented to us in disseminating what we are doing and what we discover.

President of the ECU Executive Council, Øystein Ogre opened the conference by saying that research has always been a priority for the ECU, not least because chiropractors need a sound evidence base; a concept which, as a physiotherapist, drew me to apply for the PhD on which I am now engaged.

Two speakers from whom I took home important messages were Alice Kongsted and Jørgen’s Jevne. Firstly, Alice suggested that, when presenting our message to clinicians, we should “decide on a clear message” and “drop the details”. She gave examples of PowerPoint slides where the message was unclear and the details many, contrasted to the same information presented in a pared down format. The second take home message was from Jørgen, whose claim to fame could be that he managed to get the word ‘sexy’ into a British Medical Journal publication when they published his article The Sexy Scalpel: unnecessary shoulder surgery on the rise. He said that in getting our message across to clinicians we need to be ‘message brokers’, maximising the use of social media and including images, videos, catchy quotes in our delivery.

Having previously felt anxious about presenting my own work in a highly visual and often interactive way for fear of being criticised as lacking gravitas, I suddenly felt an immense sense of relief. These were experienced researchers and skilled presenters advocating not that we dumb down the content of what we say, but that we change the way we say it. For the first time I felt like I was being given permission to present in a manner that I was drawn to even if it didn’t match the majority of presentations I have sat through. Jørgen’s said that we need make the way we communicate sexy: we need to go “from boring to Baywatch”. I may not have the skill to incorporate images of David Hasselhoff or Pamela Anderson into my slides, but I’m inspired to think more creatively about communication to clinicians.

Photo attribution:, Geoffrey Chandler, "David Hasselhoff":

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