Big yourself up: Promoting yourself and your research

Kate Rogerson shares with us some tips for promoting yourself and your research; online, face to face and formal in presentations.

At the end of March I attended the British Ornithologists’ Union’s (BOU) annual conference and took part in the excellent Early Career Researcher (ECR) event. These events were started during the time when BIO’s own Jenny Gill was BOU’s President (2011-15) and are a great opportunity to pick up some new skills from the experts. This year the ECR workshop focused on ‘promoting yourself and your research’ covering three topics: online and social media platforms, face-to-face networking and presenting at a conference.


Online and social media platforms

An online presence is becoming increasingly important because of altmetric scores. Altmetrics measure the online attention of a research paper. The calculation of the score includes the activity of the paper on facebook, twitter, google plus, youtube, blogs and Wikipedia. The different types of online attention from the different websites have different scores: mentions in news articles are the highest scorers with 8, blog posts score 5; one tweet is worth 1 (one point per tweeter), one facebook post is 0.25 and a Wikipedia reference is worth 3. We can affect these scores by driving the online presence of our papers – reference them in Wikipedia, write tweets that can be retweeted and write blogs.

There are multiple online platforms all of which can be used for promoting your research in slightly different ways. Pick those that make sense for you, don’t use all of them!


researchgate Researchgate allows you to communicate with other scientists. You can add information on your current projects, which can create interest in the project before the papers are published. This is a good platform to seek collaborations and ask questions (about statistics and methodology).
linkedin.png LinkedIn is good for networking with professional non-academics, collaborators or potential employers. It can include a full CV (which can’t be done on ResearchGate).
twitter.jpg Twitter is used to promote research to scientists and non-scientists, is extremely popular and a great place to connect with potential collaborators.
Untitled.jpg Instagram is good for public engagement, a photo sharing app with lots of space for information (no character limit like twitter) although cannot link to websites. Great for photogenic study areas and species.
facebook-logo-vector-400x400.png Facebook is mostly used for personal connections, good to inform friends and family about your work. Also good for groups for statistics, species specific groups, BES special internet groups and the BOU ECR groups.
google.jpg Google+ is similar to twitter but less widely used.
wiki.gif Wikipedia is the first point of reference for many people (scientists and non-scientists) for species specific information or general information. Scientists should reference their own work to increase the body of knowledge that is easily findable.

Twitter is probably the mostly widely used platform for researchers, but here are a few things to remember:

  • Use hashtags and personal tags cleverly, include publishers and collaborators, this will increase your numbers of retweets. Find the best hashtag for your research area, do not use vague ones like #birds.
  • Remember to write multiple tweets, maybe schedule them to come out at different times of day and throughout the week after your paper is published, using an app such as tweetdeck.
  • Use engaging photos, however use them carefully, photos are now ‘free’ with no loss to the 140 character limit and people just look at the photos without reading the tweet.
  • Try to build relationships with other tweeters, when you have a new paper these connections will get you more tweets and retweets.
  • Also your avatar/photo is extremely important – make sure it is similar across the platforms you use, so that you can be recognisable online and in person. Make sure your face is clear with no busy background. Look out for the @Blackmudpuppy cartoons of researchers and their study species that are becoming very popular on twitter.

Face-to-face networking

Networking at conferences and workshops is good for making new contacts and selling yourself. There are potential employers out there! But the skill is very useful beyond this, for making new collaborations and coming up with new research ideas.

At conferences try to pinpoint particular people that you want to talk to, you could even contact them in advance and organise a meeting in a coffee break; this would make that first chat easier. However some of your networking will be adhoc. If you see someone on their own then it is easier to go up and talk to them or join the conversation in an open group; but avoid butting in to a closed group of people this could seem rude. Make sure you use open questions, ‘what do you study?’ was a popular one among the ECRS.

Make sure you practise your elevator pitch. Talk about your research and results but remember to sell your skills, these are things that you would bring to a job or collaboration, they could easily remember you when writing their next grant application. After the conference, remember to maintain the contacts you made, follow up with an email. And if you offered to send something, remember to do it, as they probably will!

Presenting at a conference

Conference talks are usually 12 minutes long with 3 minutes left for questions. Preparation is extremely important; firstly try not to analyse until the night before the conference, leave plenty of time for preparation and practise. Secondly, practise in front of others and make sure it as formal as possible.

There are differing opinions on whether you should write out what you are going to say during a talk. It can help with structure and organising thoughts but don’t use them in practises, you need to practise to be natural and flexible with your talk and not sound like a robot. It is often a good idea to learn the first and last sentences of your talk, this helps with nerves and makes you start strongly and then gives you a clear ending.

At the conference get to the auditorium in good time and familiarise yourself with it, is there a lectern or platform? Where could you put a glass of water? Also check your PowerPoint on the conference computer, often people convert PowerPoints to pdfs to keep it safe from changes between computers. And then make sure you get a good night sleep the night before (be careful of the free booze on offer!).

When you present, show enthusiasm and look at the audience; you will be remembered because you were engaging. Sadly nerves can get in the way of this. Try to speak clearly and slowly, and prevent your nerves from making you too soft or too fast. Also be careful of fidgeting (moving rings or spinning pens) as this is distracting for the audience. Plenty of practice can help iron out these potential issues.

The questions at the end of your talk are the hardest part to prepare for but they get easier with experience. If you are asked about something you have not looked into, be honest and try to find something to say, building on your knowledge of the topic. If you don’t understand a question ask for it to be repeated although if you have to ask multiple times a great tip to get out of the stalemate is to say: ‘can we talk about this over coffee?’

I’d like to thank Nina O’Hanlon, Steve Dudley, Francis Daunt, Cat Horswill and David Douglas for organising the event and sharing these pearls of wisdom!

kate.jpgKate Rogerson is an ecologist in ENV; she is interested in how changes to the environment can alter animal behaviour and movement, which then affect population demographics. Her PhD is focusing on the changes that are occurring to the annual migration of the Portuguese white stork population. For more information about her work please contact Kate at or @katiebee1991.