This morning I gave a 5 minute pitch on behalf of our Global Food Security research team at the University of Stirling’s Dragon’s Den event. In the end it was a great event, it was really good to see all of the exciting research going on in the University and the Dragon’s were very generous. They gave a mix of resources we had asked for and some interesting ones we had not thought of. Our bid received many of the resources we requested and overall it was a really positive experience for us. However, I was very nervous about the whole thing in the run up to it.
The call for Interdisciplinary research themes and ideas to be pitched to the Dragons came a few months ago and we were keen to put a Food Security bid together. However I know some people who were not confident about giving a pitch and let that put them off getting involved. I have been thinking about equality issues for a while now and am aware of Imposter syndrome. There is also evidence that women are less likely to put themselves forward for things unless they are completely confident in them. I therefore try to look at the opportunities that arise through that lens and have definitely taken on tasks or roles recently for which my immediate response was that I am not qualified/experienced enough to do that but which in reality I can do.
In this case I actually have quite a lot of experience of giving public lectures and public engagement so have experience of presenting my work to non experts, but that feels very different when you audience are Dragons! As it was the University provided training which was really useful, particularly in terms of helping develop the structure of the pitch and encouraging me to have a draft of the pitch much earlier than I would if left to my own devices. I also did a practice run and got feedback from the rest of the team which was incredibly helpful and they were very supportive. Most importantly I practiced the pitch a number of times, making sure that I could get through everything in the strict timeframe and that I was confident in the flow of the story.That meant that on the day, although I was very nervous, I at least felt prepared. In the end the Dragon’s were very positive- in my imaginings before the event they had stood up and pointed me out as a fraud, or asked me scathing questions- but that did not come to fruition!
I did mess one question up- for the record John, Stephan Dombrowski is part of the team and his expertise is behaviour change -I am sure he already works with Ronan!
I guess there are two messages to take from this experience. Firstly the Dragon’s Den was a great event and I would encourage other people to take part if the opportunity arises. Particularly since we got some excellent resources which will really help us move our research forward. More generally, if you are the type of person who shies away from these sort of activities, think about whether you could take a deep breath and push yourself out of your comfort zone (ideally with a fabulous team to support you like I had). You never know, you might enjoy it!