Sharing skills: baking, curating, presenting and surviving a sharknado apocalypse!


Every year the University of Hertfordshire History department spend a weekend at Cumberland Lodge in Windsor Great Park. Staff and students from our undergrad and postgrad communities attend and some of our alumni come too. And this year we were especially pleased to be joined by some of our colleagues from UH Geography.

We shared good food, good company and beautiful surroundings. We even had sunshine, if only on Saturday.

Aside from relaxing in a very pleasant environment, we dedicated the time to sharing our research and sharing our skills from history-themed baking and cake decorating, to exhibition curation and, courtesy of our geographer friends, surviving and rebuilding society after an apocalypse: a sharknado apocalypse that destroyed north London in this case!


My contribution to the weekend was to talk about giving presentations in class and in other environments, something that lots of people find intimidating. I suggested ways to make the process easier, focusing a lot of self-belief and preparation. In brief here’s what I said:

  • Believe in what you do and in your right to stand in front of the audience and be heard (easier said than done but it comes with practice).
  • Demonstrate that belief in yourself:
    • Speak up and be heard
    • Dress smartly but comfortably
    • Think about your non-verbal communication
      • Smile
      • Posture –stand up straight and face the audience
      • Hand movements – open and expansive
      • Eye contact – with all of the audience
  • Justify that belief:
    • Rehearse
    • Take responsibility: keep to time, stick to the brief
    • Know your stuff
    • Speak plainly
    • Share the limelight – if you’re in a group, let the others speak
    • Share the limelight – if you’re in a group, speak up, don’t hide
    • Build a relationship with your audience
    • Face the audience – never turn your back on them to read from a PowerPoint
    • Look up – try not to read from notes
    • Read the mood – are your audience engaged?
  • Justify others being there:
    • It’s hard to be a good speaker, when the audience is not paying attention. When you’re not speaking, be a good audience
    • Listen – and show that you are listening, make eye contact with the speaker
    • Give full attention – put away phones and laptops
    • Listen and absorb – listen to all of what other people are saying, even if you think it’s wrong
    • Keep an open mind
    • Ask questions 
  • Reflect:
    • What went right? What went wrong? What will I change next time?
    • But try not to worry about what went wrong, our mistakes always seem more significant to us than they do to others.
  • Your aim: not just communication, inspiration!

And for those of you who got this far just for the cakes:




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