On April 20, I attended the 3rd National Research and Development Conference held at the Philippine International Convention Center. The conference was organized by the Department of Science and Technology (DoST) through the Office of the Undersecretary for Research and Development (R&D), Dr. Rowena Cristina L. Guevara. It aimed to update various sectors on the Harmonized National Research and Development Agenda (HNRDA), the completed and ongoing R&D programs and projects, and the technology transfers from government-funded R&D programs and projects to end-users. The speakers were proponents of the various DoST- and sectoral council-funded projects.
I observed two remarkable things during the conference that I would like to highlight.
First, the speakers did Technology/Entertainment/Design (TED)-like presentations. They wore lapel microphones and walked around or stood on the stage, limited their talks to five minutes each, and used mostly pictures instead of text. Awesome! TED-style talks are not really what you would expect from science and technology (S&T) researchers, especially in conferences. More typical would be having presenters read their scripts while showing PowerPoint presentations that are loaded with technical details, and most of the time exceeding the 15-minute limits for the presentations.
I love TED talks. I have always admired people who can speak easily and captivate large audiences. Carmine Gallo, an author, columnist, and former journalist and news anchor, states, “TED has set the gold standard for public speaking, and TED speakers work very hard at creating presentations that go viral; many TED talks have been viewed up to 20 million times.” For example, Sir Ken Robinsons’ “Do Schools Kill Creativity” already has more than 51 million views as of this writing.
Second, because the TED-like presentations of the S&T researchers were something new to behold, the attendees were glued to their seats throughout the 22 presentations. After the program, the venue was buzzing with delight from presenters, organizers, and guests. Awesome! Again, such behavior is not what you would expect from typical S&T conference attendees. Usually, after the lunch break, attendees would sneak out one by one until the conference venue would be half-empty. I agree with Gallo: “We all like to see and hear something new.”
I interviewed some of the presenters and the organizers to find out what had transpired behind the scenes. The presenters, who are experts in their respective disciplines, shared that it had been an exciting, new, and nerve-wracking experience to do TED-like presentations. They had been challenged by the organizers to strip down and “laymanize” their presentations and deliver compelling stories about their research findings, the TED way, in five minutes.
For most people, speaking in front of a large audience is their “yikes zone.” According to George E. L. Barbee in his strategy+business blog, the yikes zone is a place outside of one’s comfort zone; hence, moving into our yikes zones makes us uncomfortable, nervous, or downright scared. But Barbee says that stretching ourselves into our yikes zones will likely be our best opportunity to learn and innovate.
The conference speakers received the necessary support, including training, rehearsals, and coaching from experts in this field so that they could stretch themselves into their yikes zones. The speakers especially appreciated the presence and feedback during the dry runs of Dr. Guevara, who believed that they could and should raise their game.
By hearing the presenters’ TED-style talks about the stories behind their projects, people will hopefully better appreciate the researchers’ contributions to national progress and policy development.
And by having its proponents share their research results the TED way, the DoST will hopefully achieve its goal of inspiring and encouraging people to take advantage of the various entrepreneurial opportunities open to them through these innovative research results (new products, processes, and services).
I believe that this year’s National R&D Conference has set the bar higher. I look forward to more innovative, exciting, and inspiring R&D conferences!
Zorayda V. Ang teaches Management Principles and Dynamics in the MBA Program of the Ramon V. Del Rosario College of Business of De La Salle University.