How to Communicate about Your Work

Students at all levels are looking to develop skills that will serve them as they make that next step. The SSC Social Media Liaison, Mary Pertich-Guy, proposed an occasional blog that would discuss professional development issues for students and encourage contributions of ideas and experiences through their comments. Oral communication skills seem to be on everyone’s short list. Whether it is reading a conference paper on someone’s behalf or introducing yourself to classmates at the beginning of a semester, archaeology students are asked to talk about work often. There are many opportunities to improve oral communication skills.

Call Your Mom

Or call an uncle or an old friend; it doesn’t matter. Just make sure it’s someone who knows nothing about your work (likely easy to find), and is willing to listen (possibly a bit harder). The questions they ask can help you hone in on things you might make clearer.

Elevator

The elevator doors shut and you have until they open again to describe your project or research interests in a compelling way. This exercise helps you to eliminate unnecessary details and focus on the interesting parts.

Teach…. anyone

Many teach as adjuncts in anthropology departments. Few things will improve your communication skills quicker. However, not everyone is in the position to teach courses. Speak to your local schoolteachers, they often welcome presentations, and students can ask challenging questions. Adult education programs may also welcome a guest speaker. These opportunities force you to organize materials, think about your audience and do not require a semester of your time.

Go to the Library (or local historical society)

Libraries and historical societies commonly have programs that invite guest speakers. These presentations can be great opportunities to present preliminary work. Those in attendance can encourage you to think on your feet.

Grab a Cup of Coffee

Make plans to meet with classmates and take turns presenting problems you are encountering. This is practice both for asking productive questions and fielding them.

Department Get-Togethers

Many departments offer students the opportunity to present work. This is a great way to get feedback on a work in progress at any stage. If your department does not do this, it is easy enough to organize. All you need is the approval from the Chair and a student listserv.

Talk to Yourself

Many people are hesitant to throw themselves in front of a crowd. With today’s technology a bit of self-critique is easy to do. Record yourself and watch it later. Audio is good but video might be better; you never know what odd gestures you might make unconsciously.

Host a Workshop in Leicester!

Are you a specialist in conservation, mapping, or some other archaeological technique or topic? Would you like to show your colleagues what your specialty could bring to archaeological research? If so, perhaps you should consider hosting a workshop at an upcoming SHA conference.

Workshops are a great way to get a small number of people in a room for a day-long (or half-day-long, if you prefer) educational session. You get great one-on-one time with your participants, without the more substantial commitment of teaching a full class.

Each year, on the Wednesday before the conference kicks off, the SHA hosts a slate of workshops aimed at professional development. These have ranged in recent years from archaeological illustration to documentary filmmaking and from preserving underwater heritage to disaster planning for archaeological collections. We will, of course, be hosting workshops again in Leicester. While some workshops take place year-to-year, we always are interested in seeing new ones develop.

Consider this a solicitation for workshop ideas. If you have something you have been mulling, or would like to sound out an idea, please contact me at cdrexler@uark.edu to get the ball rolling. Also, feel free to use the comment section below, or other social media sites such as Twitter or Facebook to generate interest!

Carl Drexler, Continuing Education Coordinator
Academic and Professional Training Committee of the SHA