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HEC Lausanne embraces the TED method

For most researchers, presenting a piece of research about a complex topic in record time and in a way that attracts their audience’s attention is a sizeable challenge. Yet it is a crucial step in the success of a project. The Faculty of Business and Economics is well aware of the dilemma and has therefore launched an all-new course for its PhD students this year, based on the TED Talks concept.

The challenge tackled brilliantly by the seven PhD students at HEC Lausanne who attended the “Mastering the Art of Public Speaking” course this spring was learning how to capture an audience’s attention for 10 minutes on a sophisticated topic that is not necessarily easily accessible.

It was during his presentation at the TEDxLausanne conference in 2015 that John Antonakis, professor at HEC Lausanne and director of the PhD in Management, came up with the idea of organising a course based on the same model. That idea quickly became a realty thanks to support from the Director of the Doctoral School, Olivier Cadot, who is also Vice Dean of the faculty.

They then called on an expert in the field to run the training. With Adria Le Bœuf, a coach with TEDxLausanne since 2012, they were knocking on the right door: a researcher at UNIL, she is also active in the theatre world, where she directs a “creative scientists” company, The Catalyst.

So what would be the best way of conveying ideas outside the academic and scientific world? As John Antonakis and Olivier Cadot point out, the role of scientific communication in public debates is now more essential than ever. “With communication ever more widely spread on social media, where any internet user can freely create and disseminate content, our society is losing out in terms of quality of information. Intellectuals and academics therefore have a responsibility to recreate a pertinent discourse by communicating about their research work,” comments Olivier Cadot.

A first for HEC Lausanne!
Communications courses in scientific settings tend to concentrate more on the analytical and critical aspects rather than how to inspire the audience. “The challenge, if the audience is going to take an interest in the research presented and remember it, is about getting the right balance between rigorous content and a triking, direct and attractive style of communication,” explains Adria Le Bœuf.

That’s a given in the new course “Mastering the Art of Public Speaking”. Although it is a very demanding exercise in terms of investing time and personal effort, there is no doubt that the results are worth it. The evidence is clear in the talks given by our seven PhD students and recorded at the closing event, which was held at La Grange de Dorigny (UNIL).

View the “HEC Lausanne UNIL talks” by the seven course participants:

About the “Mastering the Art of Public Speaking” course
The course runs for six half days and is open to all fourth and fifth-year PhD students in the Faculty of Business and Economics. The course is optional, with priority given to students who are furthest ahead with their thesis and most likely to join the job market or use the techniques taught in the near future. The organisers plan to repeat the course every year.

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