It was a day full of anticipation, full of excitement and of the unknown.
When you hear about TED, your mind immediately gets drawn to all kinds of images, big crowds, the Madonna mic, the red circle, hard-hitting and inspiring talks. TEDx Glasgow had it all and it was such a joy and an honour to have been a part of it.
Speaking is one of those things that I have a strange connection with. I’ve always been a good communicator when academic performances were poor growing up, I was always able to communicate well with others. There is something about speaking in front of large groups that causes huge anxiety but also creates enormous excitement.
I suppose in some ways it’s like the person that does ultra marathons. We might think that it’s terrifying, anxiety-provoking and gut-wrenching, the person that does the ultra marathon would probably agree, but they are still going to sign up for the next one.
I feel similarly with regards to speaking, I love it, I love the buzz and the anticipation. If I’m honest, I love the idea of communicating expertise and knowledge to a group of willing ears.
This passion for speaking and my passion for mental health and especially men’s mental health drew me to TEDx Glasgow. With over 2,000 people in attendance, it’s one of the biggest TEDx platforms on earth.
It was a number of months of applying and going through different rounds of the application process, finally hearing that I had been accepted as a speaker a few months before the talk.
I was immediately assigned a coach who was incredible and who I met with each week. We discussed the topic of my talk, The Male Identity Crisis. We looked at the message I wanted to convey and how I would manage this in just 8 minutes.
This was unlike any talk I had ever given before. I had to do more than just communicate research and empirical findings, I had to illustrate my story and discuss why this topic was so important to me.
I was anxious about memorising my script. It was 8 minutes long and I had no idea how I was going to memorise all the words and sentences that my coach and I had so painstakingly gone through with a fine-tooth comb. My dyslexia means that its really difficult for me to absorb the written word at times. As a result, I decided to create some illustrations of my talk notes.
This has always been helpful for me, rather than memorising words, I could memorise the images and remember what words I needed to say when each image popped up in my mind.
You can check out those images below here:
Men’s mental health is not only the main focus of my research on my counselling psychology doctorate, but it is also my passion. The fact that 78% of all suicides are completed by men, that 84 men a week take their own lives and that only one-third of the population of people in therapy are men.
The statistics are staggering and for me, one of the biggest contributing factors to the epidemic of men’s mental health and suicide is male identity and how we view men.
The way that men are viewed in society today, with what I think ha an element of a predatory nature, is the biggest component of men’s mental illness and male suicide I feel. In many ways, men are now encouraged to be vulnerable, to talk about how they feel and to seek help. However, at the same time, men are still expected to adhere to stereotypical masculine norms like being autonomous, not showing emotion and never asking for help.
It’s this conflicting identity that I feel leads to this male identity crisis and ultimately to men’s mental illness and male suicide.
The day finally arrived and it brought with it everything I had come to stereotypically associate with TED events. Massive crowds, the TED logo everywhere, art and different types of performers. It was amazing and difficult to not get drawn into the anxiety that came with speaking on such a platform.
I was keen to be around people as much as possible, I’m not someone that finds massive benefit in isolated moments during such anxious times. I spoke to family members and friends and chatted to volunteers in the green room.
I checked out a couple of the talks from some of the other amazing speakers and got prepared by rehearsing my full talk with my coach.
Waiting backstage was, of course, nerve raking but I was excited to get going.
The most anxious moment was getting strapped up with the mic and standing at the side of the stage, ready to give my talk.
Walking to the red circle felt like it took 20 minutes but when I got there, I was able to look out and felt a sense of confidence that I could remember my talk and communicate it well.
I always find that once you face a fear and prepare well in advance, you gain a real sense of accomplishment and joy from overcoming something that was originally a barrier for you. That’s exactly how I felt with this.
Doing my GetPsyched videos was of course initially nerve raking, no one really likes being filmed initially. However, that eventually became routine. This was very very different.
In truth, I have to say I really enjoyed every second of giving my talk. The joy of this whole process, the months of preparing, rehearsing and amending my script all concluded with what was an awesome day.
Since then the opportunities for speaking and connecting with others have really grown, but I don’t want this blog post to be just about me. I want to give some advice and belief to people that want to undertake a TED talk but perhaps think it’s out of their reach.
So, here are some of my top tips for getting started:
- You absolutely are capable of doing it. TED talks might have a huge global status and platform but that doesn’t mean you can’t apply or speak. TED is looking for innovating and interesting ideas, we all have those. So my first piece of advice is to believe that this is an option for you.
- When thinking of an idea to talk about, it doesn’t have to be a “never before heard of” topic. It could be a topic that we all understand but given a different angle due to your subject appreciation. Think about a topic you love and how that topic might be appreciated different because of your own living experience.
- Apply! You could spend months building up the courage and constructing ideas, but you’ll get nowhere if you don’t send that application form!
- The important thing is not about how well you know the topic, or how smart you can sound. The key to any process with a TED talk is to discuss what it means to you. What is your story connected to your topic? How can people connect with the story through you?
I encourage anyone thinking about doing something like this to go for it. TEDx Glasgow is one of the most incredible events and one of the biggest honours of my life!
I started my YouTube channel GetPsyched just over a year ago. The object was for me to engage with a wider audience, to take on the role as a voice for psychology students and people just generally interested in psychology.
As I developed my YouTube channel, I also invested in developing my social media accounts.
I put more time into sharing content on Twitter, I started a GetPsyched Facebook page and an Instagram account under my own name.
This was all in an effort to network, to reach more people and to potentially create new opportunities and share ideas and content.
It was tricky at first, being in front of a camera felt very unnatural.
I had no idea about recording or video editing and so learned as much as I could from YouTube videos and articles.
Initially, the engagement was slow. I struggled to gain much traction and saw little development.
However, I had made a commitment and really did not want to fall at the first hurdle. As the months went on I developed my website frasersmithcounsellingpsy.com.
This brought more traffic and engagement to both my written blog and my YouTube channel.
As time progressed I was getting contacted by different organisations that liked my work and wanted me to write some guest blog articles.
PsychReg contacted me a few months into the development of my online content. They were a developing psychology organisation that published research and online material.
I wrote an article on men’s mental health and one on top tips for psychology undergraduates.
A few weeks later, I was invited to be interviewed about men’s mental health on the PsychReg podcast, The Mental Breakdown.
You can check out the video here.
From there, things really took off for me. I was seeing weekly growth and deeper engagement with a larger audience of psychology students and professionals and people just generally interested in psychology.
However, about six months into the development of GetPsyched. PsychReg invited me to speak at their upcoming international conference in the Philippines.
I was blown away. After an incredible amount of work and extra effort, I was gaining enough recognition to be asked as a speaker at a huge conference.
The conference itself with incredible. There were speakers and delegates from all over the world that sought to communicate revolutionary findings in psychology and education, as well as network and experience a new and diverse culture.
The Philippines and New Era University in Quezon City, Manila welcomed us with unapparelled hospitality.
The students and delegates that attended the conference had such an interesting background of experiences and a strong desire to learn more.
Throughout the conference, each speaker had the opportunity to engage with attendees that wanted to learn more about their topics. Seeing such an enthusiasm for psychology and education was amazing to witness.
It made me think more about the responsibility we hold as people that work and study in psychology and education. Our research and our learning outcomes are not only applicable to the country where we work but all over the world too.
We live in an age where we can share ideas, thoughts and findings to massive audiences across the world. As a result, new collaborative approaches to things such as mental health, schooling of young children and human rights can be shared and developed. This conference was an illustration of all of this. It was an opportunity to share amongst new colleagues and witness new ideas unfold.
My presentation was on my recent findings on a widespread literature review of men’s mental health.
I covered concepts such as toxic masculinity, male identity and issues with therapeutic uptake in men.
The opportunity itself was genuinely life-changing. I found myself on the other side of the world with some of the most prominent and inspiring figures in the field of psychology and education.
After being unsure as to whether developing online content in psychology was a good idea, I cannot describe how grateful I am to PsychReg and all others that have supported me in developing GetPsyched.
I suppose this post is not one of new information or insight, or perhaps for some, it is. I hope that this article can be utilised as motivation for anyone considering stepping out into a new domain, or those willing to think outside the box a little.
Taking a step of faith and being consistent with what you develop and the passion you show for what you do will always work! It will always provide you with what you hope for and so much more! There is no downside to working hard, showing extra effort and developing your passion for something you care about. There will only always be positivity, and at times opportunities that you cannot believe have presented themselves.
Studying psychology is really one of the most interesting things I have ever done.
I love psychology, I love learning about people, what makes them tick, what makes them wonder, what makes them afraid, what makes them happy.
The more I learn about psychology, and therapy, the more I want to get involved with what others are doing in the field.
From my own personal experience, I have found that the single best way to do this is via networking.
This is for a number of different reasons.
I realised that networking holds with it a huge amount of power in psychology.
Psychology is a field of individuals who care about the wellbeing and desires of others.
As a result, when I have tried to network, I have often been met with great advice and people willing to help.
Another reason why networking is so effective in psychology is that few do it!
This could be for many reasons
Perhaps people are afraid, perhaps they don’t want to step out of line, perhaps they don’t know what they are doing or who to content.
I want to give you a bit of insight into my story regarding networking, how I did it, and still do it, and the impact I have experienced as a result.
So, why should we network in psychology?
You may very well be starting out on your journey in the field, perhaps in your undergrad, or postgrad or doctorate, or perhaps you have just recently qualified.
Regardless, what needs to be realised is so many others are in the same position.
What differentiates you from the field?
Research shows that less than 10% of psychology undergraduates actually pursue a career in psychology
This could do with the challenges of continual study, or that some are just no longer interested in the area.
I actually think it has a lot to do with guidance and with knowing your path
If you are studying in psychology then you need to network!
Networking has opened so many doors for me, given me the opportunity and desire to develop online content and work with numerous individuals and organisations.
I have been given the opportunity to keynote speak at conferences, attend and present at international conference across the world, been offered job opportunities on the spot and connected with some very prominent psychologists.
All through networking.
So, here’s how I did it…
I would make a point of collecting all the contact information of the psychology centres and prominent psychologists in my area
I created bulk emails and sent them out, customising them where appropriate.
I would express my interest in their work and that I wanted to learn more.
What’s key here is that I tried to add value for them where ever I could.
If that meant volunteering for them in their centre, developing a workshop for them or writing content for social media campaigns, then I suggested it.
No matter what the situation, organisation or individual, I also made a point of adding value to them first before anything else.
I attended free events, and at times paid to attend conferences if I had the money.
This was a brilliant opportunity for me to meet face to face with people that were in attendance.
Often at events in psychology, you can get an idea of who might be attending, via social media and guides of who will be speaking.
I made sure that those attending were in line with my interests.
When I went, I would ensure I managed to get a couple of minutes with people I wanted to network with.
I created business cards and discussed my interests, work and my availability to add value to them.
I’ll be honest, networking at conferences had limited results.
Largely because people are there to either speak or listen.
I found conference attending helpful, but not as helpful as calling or emailing organisations directly.
One of the keys to networking effectively is that you have to create the opportunity for yourself.
More often than not, the opportunity that you desire and want to go after will not be an option right now.
You have to create the opportunity for yourself.
During my studies in counselling psychology, I was really struggling with workload, commitments, studies, placement and making enough money to live off.
There were no opportunities for trainees to learn directly about counselling psychology on the job, whilst earning a living.
So, I decided to try and change this, I reached out to one of the biggest private practices in the country and managed to arrange a meeting with the CEO.
I stuck with the principles of adding value and pitched the idea of why hiring counselling psychology trainees for placement on a paid basis would be a great idea for him and his organisation.
He loved it.
So much so that he and I created multiple job opportunities for counselling psychologists in training to take on placement at his organisation on a paid progression programme format.
In doing so, I had created a job for myself, whilst also developing my experience working with one of the most premier psychologists in the country.
All because I reached out, added value and was aware that the opportunities I wanted were limited.
Now, you might think that networking is just consistent of reaching out to people and asking if they will help you out.
In truth, networking can be so much more than this.
I have found that some of the best networking opportunities that have come my way have actually not been from me reaching out to people, but people reaching out to me.
How has this happened?
Through developing content.
I create a lot of content for social media, my written blog here and my YouTube channel GetPsyched.
People who read my content and what my videos sometimes reach out to me and want to know more.
This was how I managed to get some opportunities speaking at international conferences.
People saw my content and connected with me and asked if I would like to do some work with them.
My advice would be to start your networking in psychology by reaching out to people via email, telephone and attending conferences, but if you are really keen to develop your networking opportunities further then developing content could be one of the best things you do.
Networking is powerful.
In psychology, it is so underdone that it opens opportunities for those willing to take advantage of the opportunities available.
I hope this post has given you a little insight into the potential of networking and some of the key steps you can take to networking in psychology for yourself.
Presenting at a conference of any kind, and in any format, can be a daunting prospect but one full of opportunities. If your presentation is in a poster format then it can be challenging to know how best to present your study and/or findings. Recently I won first place for my poster presentation at the BPS annual counselling psychology conference. As a result, I have come up with my top tips that helped me deliver a poster presentation that was engaging and interesting.
Tip #1 – Ensure the message is clear and concise:
- On average an individual only looks at a poster at a conference for anywhere between 40 seconds to 60 seconds.
- The last thing they want to do is read scrolls and scrolls of text to get the point.
- Make sure to be clear, succinct and to the point with all the relevant information you require.
Tip #2 – Make the poster stand out from the rest:
- At any conference, it is easy to get lost in the group of posters presented.
- You could be at a conference that has in excess of 50 posters, so it is vital that yours stands out from the crowd.
- I have always found that when people anticipate this, they want to add lots of colour and be as bold as possible. This is not always the best idea.
- Your poster might stand out more if it has some white space or a white background. Something to think about here as the majority of people will think to add bold colours in order to stand out.
- We will get to a few additional point that will help you stand out at your conference later.
Tip #3 – Why use words when you can use diagrams?:
- As we have already been saying, people don’t spend long on average looking at posters.
- Therefore, why say something with words that can be said in even greater detail, and more manageable, in a diagram or picture?
- If you have conceptualised a theory or want to report some interesting findings then charts and graphs could be a good option.
- In the poster I won first place for recently, I was sure to have a diagram that stood centre stage of the poster. It was very basic but stood out and got my points across for what I did, why I did it and what I took from what was discovered.
Tip #4 – Include participant and paper information:
- One of the key pieces of feedback I received from my poster was that I included the number of papers that were relevant to my study, where I found them and how I reduced my search.
- This is something that is apparently overlooked and you really should consider adding this information to your poster.
- Likewise, if you had participants etc then the information of number etc should be included at some point.
- Beleive me, those judging your poster really do look out for these things!
Tip #5 – Have available handouts:
- One of the best tips I learned when working on my poster was to have available handouts for those interested in your work.
- This could include a summary of what you have in your poster and perhaps some additional information.
- However, one of the best reason for doing this is networking.
- You can have your contact details on this for people to get in touch with you. Conferences are a fantastic opportunity to network in psychology. Having something that people can take away with them that has a means of getting in touch with you is a very smart move!
Tip #6 – Make it flow:
- There are a number of things to juggle when creating and delivering an effective poster at a conference.
- One of the key things often overlooked is how it flows.
- The information you provide in your poster will be very brief at points and very direct, therefore its important that your whole poster has a flow to it. It should be easy to read and follow.
- One easy way to help with this is to have a title of each section of information you have, this should also be numbered so the reader knows where to look next.
- For example:
- Implications for Practice.
- This is very basic but maybe gives you an idea of what is expected regarding the flow of your poster.
Poster presenting, and attending a conference in general, is a really good way to network and develop your own knowledge and skills. With these steps, you will be well on your way to making your poster stand out from the rest and deliver clear and concise information that the reader will enjoy.