Thursday, April 30, 2015

Highlights from UCLA Conference for PhD grads

My alma mater hosted a conference for PhD grads, hoping to prepare us for the after-life.  Dr. Peter S. Fiske wowed the crowd with his take on Effective Communication.  Here are the highlights:


  • 90% of success is just showing up.  10% is sitting in the front row.  So do you show up as a Starfleet Officer or Beeker (yes, the muppet that always explodes at the end of the sketch)?
  • Society has invested in PhD grads with hopes that we will move the forefront of knowledge. This means rigorous scholarship and the ability to be a persuasive and articulate communicator. In short, to be an inspirational leader.
  • We err in thinking that most people make decisions based on logic and analysis. Decisions are based on instinct, emotions, subconscious, trust, likeability, authority.
  • In order to establish trust when presenting to an audience, try the following:  1) Slow down, speak clearly (connotes confidence and assurance), use silence strategically, pace the delivery of information. 2) Pay attention to your Energy. 3) Use confident body posture and gestures. 4) Make comfortable eye contact (think confident and kind eyes). 5) Read the audience's feelings. 6) Pay attention to attire and be well-dressed.
  • In order to be heard, you have to connect.  It is short-sighted to believe that science should speak for itself.  Our human impulse to trust and believe requires warmth, confidence, and engagement with skill, honesty and integrity (KILLER COMBINATION).
  • Non-verbal communication skills are critical:  eye contact & facial expressions, voice, words and language, gestures & movement, body language and posture, energy, attire and accessories (such as business cards). Practice! Take an improv class.
  • Firm handshake (hand holding stimulates comfort) and good eye contact (make a mental note of the color of their eyes).  
  • We are dramatically influenced by non-verbal communication.
  • Fake it and you'll make it.  "The play's the thing. Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king." Shakespeare
  • Telling stories is powerful Jedi magic.  We are wired for stories.  Storytelling is effective because audience has a vicarious experience.  We put ourselves in the story.  Stories invite the listener to be in the narrative.  Stories disarm a listener's urge to get to the ending.  
  • Prepare and deliver great stories about yourself. Use the formula, STAR, to write your stories. ST: situation or task, A: action, R: result.
  • You don't get what you want in life by asking once.  Shy, passive, self-doubt, not very persistent, and lack initiative.  If you doubt yourself, then why shouldn't I agree with you?
  • Doctoral studies march you to the precipice of human knowledge and ask you to make the next step.  You are experienced in dealing with uncertainty and limited resources with drive and creativity. 
  • Peter interviewed successful PhDs in non-academic careers and asked, "Of the many skills you developed while in graduate school, which ones are the most valuable to you now?"
    • Finding one's own path and taking initiative with little assistance
    • Ability to work in a high-stress environment
    • Independence
    • Maturity
    • Computer skills
    • Circumventing the rules
    • Learning to seek out problems and solutions
    • Ability to persuade
    • Ability to create
    • Ability to work productively with difficult people
    • (and his favorite): Ability and courage to start something even if you don't know yet