How improvisation techniques can support researchers with the development of public speaking skills

  • Nicola Grayson University of Manchester
  • Jessica Napthine-Hodgkinson University of Manchester Library


Through the presentation of a workshop entitled ‘Enhancing public speaking skills using improvisation techniques’ this case study will argue that improvisational techniques can disrupt the seriousness of researcher development training to release stress and provide a cathartic space for researchers to develop skills and support one another. The landscape of researcher support is traditionally a serious terrain, and the impacts of the pressures faced by researchers are well documented (Evans et al., 2018). Opportunities for researchers to work together and support one another are relatively rare, yet research has shown that peer-to-peer support benefits them immensely (Boud and Lee, 2007). In 2018, the University of Manchester Library reviewed its researcher development programme and adopted a new approach that emphasises the value of researchers working in a community with peers both within and outside of their subject area. The workshop exemplifies this approach, as it encourages researchers to support one another to develop public speaking skills in a way that is innovative, fun and enjoyable. Attendees work together in a space where the freedom to fail offers them a cathartic release from the pressures of perfection. As a result, researchers can reframe their worries into opportunities to connect with one another and grow and this empowers them to build confidence in their ability to engage with others in dialogue about their research.

Author Biographies

Nicola Grayson, University of Manchester

Dr Nicola Grayson is a Learning Developer with expertise in measuring impact and researcher development. She is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and works as an Associate Lecturer teaching Philosophy in addition to supporting the design, delivery and evaluation of the University of Manchester Library’s learning programmes.

Jessica Napthine-Hodgkinson, University of Manchester Library

Jess Napthine-Hodgkinson is a Research Services Officer with expertise in research data management and training development. She is a Fellow of the Association of University Administrators and is an experienced facilitator specialising in applied improvisation within Higher Education.

How to Cite
Grayson, N. and Napthine-Hodgkinson, J. (2020) “How improvisation techniques can support researchers with the development of public speaking skills”, Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. Plymouth, UK, (19). doi: 10.47408/jldhe.vi19.611.