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Blog post

Presenting at an e-festival: Experiences of an early career researcher

Lucy Robinson, PhD Student at University of Oxford

In this blog post, I share my experiences of presenting at the National Centre for Research Methods (NCRM) e-Festival. After outlining the initial application, the run-up to the event and the delivery of my webinar on the day, I conclude with my recommendation for encouraging other early career researchers to embrace online opportunities like these, alongside other more traditional formats, as part of their researcher development.

The NCRM’s e-festival took place between 7 and 9 November 2023. The event was the 10th edition of the NCRM’s biannual Research Methods Festival, the last two editions of which have been run completely online. The e-festival was designed to be a ‘celebration of research methods with an interdisciplinary focus’ and the three-day programme was packed with over a hundred sessions in a variety of formats. Early in 2023, I sent off my application to present at the e-festival, encouraged by my growing interest in research methods and having attended excellent training courses hosted by the NCRM. Fast forward a few months and my application was accepted! I would be running a 50-minute webinar titled ‘The research ethics tree: engaging children with research ethics using an interactive tool’.

As the date for the e-festival approached, I was kept well informed by the organiser. With the e-Festival platform, Whova, up and running by October, I was able to create my ‘speaker profile’ including my affiliation and research interests as well as social account links to LinkedIn and X (formally known as Twitter). I also made use of the other features on the platform including sharing articles and recommending conferences. As a speaker, I had the ability to set a poll for my event, which gave me an indication of the levels of pre-existing knowledge of my audience members. Collectively, these features were a real strength of the e-festival format as they allowed me to create a researcher profile, network with like-minded researchers and fine-tune my presentation – all before the event!

So, when the day of my webinar dawned, I felt well placed and prepared. I was familiar with the Whova platform and MS Teams (an absolute must when relying on technology) and I had the emergency technology support number saved to my mobile phone. The event organiser had also offered rehearsal slots to check the technology worked, answer any questions and allay any worries the presenters had. While I remained a little nervous about the possibility of dreaded technology issues, my webinar thankfully ran smoothly. The e-festival attracted lots of interest, with over 1,000 tickets sold (at £10 each, making it far more affordable and accessible compared to traditional conferences) to attendees from across the globe. In my own event, I had 70 attendees, including fellow students, more experienced academics and those working in policy and practice – all with a shared interest in ethical research with children.

As part of my webinar, I had devised an interactive activity, inviting the attendees to reflect on how they do, or could, support children’s understanding of ethical research in their own practice. It was great to see and interact with audience members willing to get involved and share their responses. As I had choice over my timings, I left a good chunk of time for questions and discussions, handled by the Whova platform. This generated discussion and interaction, something which I previously foresaw as a main disadvantage of online events.

‘My experience allowed me to share an important feature of my doctoral research with a far larger and more diverse audience than I would have had at a more traditional academic conference.’

Given my experience, I would certainly recommend that other early career researchers look for opportunities to present at e-festivals or other online events. My experience allowed me to share an important feature of my doctoral research with a far larger and more diverse audience than I would have had at a more traditional academic conference. Also, being online removed the necessity for expensive and time-consuming travel, thus increasing accessibility for presenters and attendees alike. Although giving a presentation from the comfort of my desk chair while talking into a camera felt strange, I would recommend online opportunities like these, alongside other more traditional formats, to build your researcher profile, practise your presenting skills and disseminate your research.

The NCRM’s Research Methods e-Festival is a biannual event and will return in 2025. To stay informed, look out for updates on their website or follow the e-festival hashtag of X – #RMeF2023.