Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Natalie Lamb and Top 10 General Speaker Questions

I am on a committee, of sorts, organising a half day training event in leadership and management. As part of the organising committee, it is important to have questions prepared for the speakers, in case the audience doesn't. It can also be a way of boosting the confidence of the audience, making them more likely to ask their own questions. Below is a list of the top 10 general questions (that I could think of!) to prepare to ask a guest speaker or presenter. There are also some extra questions specific to networking, that can be found in this post.

1. What will be the biggest challenge to the water sector in the future?

2. Is/how is management within the water sector different to management in other industries?

3. How has leadership changed in the past, compared to today?

4. What is the biggest challenge for future leaders?

5. What is the greatest opportunity that future leaders will have that current leaders do not?

6. What are the most important skills for the next generation to have?

7. What is the most important think that you want your audience to remember about your presentation?

8. What do you want your audiences to do differently as a result of having heard your presentation?

9. How do you think the current political climate will impact the water industry going forwards?

10. How do you think the use of social media will impact the water industry going forwards?

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Natalie Lamb and Packing for My First International Conference

I have my first international conference in just two weeks time, the Water Quality Technology Conference in Portland, Oregon, USA and have the monumental task of packing for it. I am also spending a week of annual leave in San Francisco, because I'll be travelling in that part of the world, I thought I might as well enjoy it with a bit of travelling of my own! This is my attempt at a packing list for the international conference.


  • Earplugs- for sleeping on the plane and in my hostel
  • Nice Travel Pillow- for the plane and if the hostel pillows are uncomfortable
  • Glasses Case- to store my glasses on the plane when I'm trying to sleep
  • Documents- passport, photocopy of passport, cash card, tickets, flight info, insurance documents, visa
  • Correct Power Adapter
  • Travel Sim Card
  • Padlock for the hostel locker
  • Pen
  • Foreign Currency


  • iPad
  • iPad Charger
  • Railcard
  • Clothes- coat, jumper, casual tshirts, tights, underwear, PJs
  • Books/DS 
  • Phone
  • Phone Charger
  • Keys
  • Battery Pack
  • Tickets
  • Wallet


  • Sleeping Tablets- to try and sleep on the plane (I have never tried them before so wish me luck!)
  • Shampoo 
  • Conditioner
  • Razer
  • Deoderant
  • Hairbrush
  • Hairbands
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Floss
  • Mouthwash
  • Travel Tissues
  • First Aid Kit- plasters, paracetamol, Bonjela etc
  • Hand Sanitiser


  • Academic posters
  • Work Phone
  • Work Phone Charger
  • VPN Keyfob
  • Pencil Case
  • Notebook
  • Business Cards
  • Laptop
  • Laptop Charger


  • Work Clothes- dresses, shorts, jacket
  • Work Shoes
  • Small Going Out Bag

I normally do one 5k run a week and want to keep this up while I go away. Also, the hotel I am in for my conference has a gym so I want to have a go in there too.

  • Running Belt- for storing my phone and room key 
  • Running Clothes (T-Shirt, Leggings, Socks, Underwear)
  • Running Shoes
  • Fitbit Charger
  • Water Bottle
  • Headphones
  • Plastic Bag
  • Goggles
  • Swimsuit

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Natalie Lamb and Being Better Than Boring Bullet Points

I went to a training course recently by Dr Steve Hutchinson ( about producing and delivering better presentations, ran by Think Ahead at The University of Sheffield. The below are some of the things/skills I learnt about.

A Long Time Before the Presentation
  • Plan
  • Practice
  • Prepare
Firstly, you have to make the presentation. The first thing to think about when trying to produce a good presentation is what is the one point you are trying to make. The one lasting impression. You want everyone leaving the audience to be able to summarise your presentation with the same sentence. So, for example, that wasting water is a bad thing to do because a lot of effort goes into treating drinking water. Bear in mind that the audience is most likely to remember the first and last thing a speaker says. So take that into account when designing your presentation around the point you wanted to make.

Next, you have to work out what you are trying to achieve by giving the presentation. Are you trying to engage the audience, entertain them, shock them?

Once you have figured out the message and the purpose of your presentation i.e. the content, you have to work out a structure for this content. A good way to do this to to start with why this work is important, then how you arrived at the data (i.e. the methodology) and then, finally, what the work is.

The introduction is key. Have a go at following this format:

  • A- Attention
    • Why is this work important and relevant?
  • B- Benefits
    • What is the audience going to get from this? Why should they listen?
  • C- Credentials
    • Why are you the right person to be speaking to them? Who are you?
  • D- Direction
    • What is your aim? What are your three key questions?

A presentation should be based around three questions, timed with the likely attention span of the audience and pitched at the right level. This could consist of: a five minute introduction that everyone should be able to understand, your first question pitched at graduate level in five minutes, your second question pitched at PhD level (show off!) in five minutes, your third and final question pitched at graduate level in five minutes and then a two minute conclusion that everyone should be able to understand.

At this point, your presentation should almost be done! But have a look at your slides. There might be a few things for you to still do.

  • Less is more. Is there anything you can cut out? 
  • Your PowerPoint should be an aid for you, not the audience. If the technology crashes and breaks, you should be able to give your presentation regardless. Is there too much text? Do you know the words?
  • Only use animation if you want to reveal, enhance or build up to something in your presentation. Don't use it all the time. 

When you have produced your presentation, it is time to practice giving it. Try to get constructive feedback on your practice, preferably from someone who isn't interested in the topic of your presentation (e.g. not your supervisor). You could always film yourself, so you are able to give yourself feedback on any weird presenting habitats you may have. One thing to assess is what is stylistically appropriate for the presentation, audience and you. If you are not a funny person, don't try and be funny. Just act natural and be yourself or it can look a bit disingenuous. It is said that 7% of our communication is verbal, 38% is vocal and 55% is visual so it is important to incorporate all of these into your practicing and feedback sessions.

Just Before the Presentation

Warm up in private. This could involve giving yourself a shake, doing some vocal warm up exercises, whatever will make you feel ready for the presentation ahead.

Sit quietly, breathe deeply and relax while you wait for your name to be called. When your name is called, walk slowly and purposely to the front. Pause to look at the audience before you begin and ensure you have a good stance, shoulders back and breathing from your diaphragm.

During the Presentation

At the very start of your presentation, welcome your audience. Say good morning, for instance, and at least one person will nod or reply. Use them as your "safe spot". This person is your anchor, the friendliest person in the audience. If anything unnerves you during the presentation, look towards them to feel a little better and get yourself back on track.

The start is the most important part. Get that right and the rest should follow. 50% of the impression you make about a person comes before they speak and this rises to 90% in the first four minutes of them speaking. To make sure you make a good impression during this very short amount of time, ensure you use "you" in the first two sentences to make the audience feel involved with what you are saying. You should be aiming to talk with the audience, not at them. So, for example use "Today I would like us to focus on x", rather than "Today I will be talking about x".

Finally, some extra tips for delivering your presentation:

  • Hold the laser pointer in the hand next to the screen to prevent a barrier being present
  • Stand on the left side of the screen because you read text left to right
  • If you don't know the answer to a question, be honest! You can always throw the question out to the whole audience
  • Keep answers to questions brief
  • The audience remember the last thing they hear. Try to get this to be a summary for after the questions

Good luck in your coming presentation!

Monday, 30 October 2017

Natalie Lamb and Managing your PhD: Goals and Prioritisation

Priotisation of daily work is important to be able to achieve your long term goals. This can be achieved in a few ways:
  • Reconnect with your goals. What are they? Why are they important? When must they be achieved? How are you working towards completing them?
  • Keep a to do list (whether this is daily, weekly, monthly does't matter. Whatever works best for you) and prioritise the tasks on it. You could maybe even assign the time required for each task. 
  • Use a diary and ensure everything is in it, including any deadlines that you have to meet.
  • Narrow down goals into smaller achievable steps.
  • Lapsing is OK but do your best to get back on track.

Do you know how you use your time at work? Working effectively means that you're doing the right thing but working efficiently is doing the right thing in the best way. You may be very busy every day but may not be completing the tasks required to complete your overall goal.  

You could try keeping an activity log for a few days to find out how you are spending your time. Create a spreadsheet with the below headings. After filling it in, you will able to eliminate jobs that are not part of your role or that don’t help you meet your objectives- the “Reject or Decrease” jobs. 

Lawton, E. (2017), Managing yourself and your PhD: To achieve a better work / life balance, Think Ahead, The University of Sheffield.

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Natalie Lamb and New Scientist Live 2017

New Scientist Live is a festival in London for all things sciencey, engineeringy, spacey all the good stuff. I was lucky enough to be given an opportunity to have a stand at the festival from The Royal Society of Biology. This is how I found my day.

Exploring the Festival
I had an afternoon volunteering shift (1:30-5) on 28/09/17 but I came in in the morning so I could explore the festival. I am incredibly glad that I did. I would describe the event as comic con for scientists (and I love both comic con and science). I got to hold a stick insect, have a play on VR, build a salt water-powered car, distribute monkeys at the correct zoos for breeding, explore a planetarium, see naked mole rats and a lot more. What amazed me was that it was not just about science. My boyfriend is not in any way interested in science so I thought he would not enjoy the event but, actually, I think he would have loved it (sorry Phill!). There were so many contraptions and robots and gizmos. I found myself really absorbed in everything that was going on. It also was not very busy, with it being a Thursday, so I was free to wander and have a go on the activities as much as I fancied.

I was actually really sad by the time 1:30 came around. I had really enjoyed my day- so much so that I had actually forgotten to eat lunch! But, as I set out the activities I had brought along with me, I started to feel more excited (and nervous) about actually volunteering on a stand.
My activity consisted of a flashcard game that I had made, with some of the process used to treat drinking water. Visitors to my stand had to try and put the cards in the right order and doing so would win them a sweet. This was my hook, to get people to come over and interact with my stand. Once they were interested and had completed the game, I asked them what they thought the difference was between bottled water and tap water and if either was better than the other. I did chlorine testing on samples of tap water (taken from the women's toilets!) and bottled water to show them the presence/absence of a chlorine residual. My "Ask a Biologist" question was "Why is chlorine in my drinking water?" (the answer to which can be found in the Youtube video), which I would then explain, with the use of some giant microbes and my other props.
From the very beginning, it went really well. All day, there was a nice steady flow of people at my stand. There were enough people to make the time go buy quickly but enough time to spend with each person so that I had some really good conversations. I was really impressed by how interested the public were and how they gave my activity a go. Overall, it was definitely worth a day out of the office!


  • Bring something that people can play with, to get their attention and interest
  • Fill your stand with objects. There are loads of interesting things at the festival so you've got to think hard what would attract people. Why would they want to come and listen to you?
  • Be brave and give it a go! Honestly, I was really nervous but I had such an excellent time- it was definitely worth it!
  • People are more interested in your research than you would think. They care. They are interested. It's a real moral booster.
  • If you are having an interview, practice first! It's a lot easier to talk to the public than talking to a camera!

Monday, 23 October 2017

Natalie Lamb and Managing your PhD: What Drives Your Behaviour?

Do you know what motivates you? The concept of transactional analysis (developed by Dr Eric Berne in the 1950's) states that everyone has drivers, characteristic ways of behaving, which can be a source of strength but also weakness. It is a lot more complicated than people fitting neatly into one of the five identified drivers below, but you may identify with several of them.

Be Perfect 

  • Strengths
    • Accurate detailed reports
    • Neat in your appearance 
    • Value cleanliness and tidiness
  • Weaknesses
    • Feel like everything you do has to be absolutely right
    • May not be satisfied with your work 
    • Delegation may be difficult 
    • Takes too long so never finish
  • How to help
    • Set realistic standards of performance and accuracy
    • Ask yourself what the consequences really are, particularly when you find a mistake
    • Tell others that their mistakes are not serious 

Hurry Up 

  • Strengths
    • Highly productive
  • Weaknesses
    • Take on too much work 
    • Often late for meetings
    • Leave things until the last moment
    • Rush and overlook significant areas
  • How to help
    • Plan your work in stages
    • Set interim target dates
    • Listen carefully to others until they have finished speaking 
    • Learn relaxation techniques 

Try Hard 

  • Strengths
    • Love new projects
    • Work well under pressure
  • Weaknesses
    • Committed to trying rather than succeeding
    • Can turn small jobs into larger jobs
  • How to help
    • Don’t volunteer for extra work
    • Make a plan that includes finishing a task
    • Only do what is expected

Be Strong 

  • Strengths
    • Great in a crisis 
  • Weaknesses
    • Difficult to delegate 
    • Don’t ask for help
    • Appear to be unemotional
    • Unable to admit weakness
  • How to help
    • Keep a task and time log to monitor your workload 
    • Ask others for help
    • Take up an activity in your spare time that you enjoy

Please Others 

  • Strengths
    • Great team member
  • Weaknesses
    • Feel guilty about saying no
    • Accept extra work instead of your own priorities
    • Can be seen as insincere
    • Worried to get something wrong and upset people
  • How to help
    • Ask people questions to check out what they want instead of guessing 
    • Please yourself more often
    • Ask other people for what you want 
    • Tell people firmly when they are wrong 

Lawton, E. (2017), Managing yourself and your PhD: To achieve a better work / life balance, Think Ahead, The University of Sheffield.
Williams, KR (2007),  Transactional Analysis - What Is Your Driver?, Available at (Accessed: 17/10/17).

Monday, 16 October 2017

Natalie Lamb and The Brilliant Club- What did my pupils enjoy most about The Brilliant Club?

As part of my final session with my first Brilliant Club pupils, I asked them to provide feedback on how they think the course went. One of the questions I asked them was what did they enjoy most about The Brilliant Club.

Not only was this to see how they found the course went but also how I could improve it for my next pupils. As well as helping improve their reflective skills.

What did the pupils say?

The pupils said the thing they enjoyed the most was the learning, the new extra-curricula content. I found this very encouraging because, in my opinion, the most important quality a pupil can have is to enjoy learning. This is not something which can be taught, at least I do not think so.

Vising a university also came very high on the list, which is unsurprising for me because I think getting to go to a real university would probably be very high on my list if I had been a part of the programme as a pupil. I know very few people who visited a university at all before college-age.

I was quite impressed that course content came quite high, with presentations, class discussion and models of cells together being as popular as learning. It showed me that presentations and class discussion should be included in my next placement. I also found this reflected how I felt the classes had gone.

The below graph shows everything the pupils enjoyed and in relation to each other.


 What was my favourite comment? 

I love that one pupil said that their favourite thing was to be treated like a university student. This is something I really tried hard to reinforce in my class. That we were there doing university work
and that, in that class, they were university students.

What were the quotes?
  • "I was able to learn new things and write a very long essay at my age. I also enjoy visiting university and meeting new people. Passing my exam."
  • "I enjoyed visiting Nottingham University and learning about the Ebola virus disease."
  • "I enjoyed going on the trip to Nottingham. I also enjoyed learning about Ebola."
  • "Presentation. Talking to other[s], explaining my views."
  • "We got to visit a university. We got treated like uni students."
  • "Everything"
  • "Being able to learn to more of a higher standard. Having more freedom to share our ideas. Working in smaller, closer groups."
  • "Learning new skills. The presentation process."
  • "I passed."
  • "It was a new opportunity and I learned new things."
  • "Having fun and passing and getting chocolate. Models of cells. AKA everything."