PFL Communication Day

On Friday, October 18, graduate students from around the university gathered at the Witherspoon Student Center for a mini-conference on communication hosted by the Preparing Future Leaders program (PFL) and cosponsored by the Initiative for Maximizing Student Diversity (IMSD) program, Office of Postdoctoral Affairs (OPA), Thesis and Dissertation Support Services (TDSS), and the Career Development Center (CDC). This new event was well received by the students attending, including Antonio Bush, doctoral student in Leadership, Policy, and Adult and Higher Education, who reports the “conference was very engaging” and looks forward to applying what he learned in upcoming presentations.

In two morning sessions led by public speaking coach Alan Hoffler participants learned how they can more effectively and efficiently present their research and carry out their day-to-day communications in email, phone calls, and personal conversations. Both messages centered around making speaking memorable, regardless of subject or medium, making them relevant for all participants who ranged from civil engineers to rhetoricians.

Hoffler’s first session focused on making every message memorable to an audience using the facilius-brevius-tardius model, which emphasized keeping all oral presentations simple, brief, and slow. All audiences, he said, benefit from a presentation that incorporates understandable content, a succinct message, and a pace slow enough for its audience to follow. These tools can make any message, from a software sales presentation to a political address, better.

In his second session “Mad Libs for Academics—Speaking to be Remembered,” Hoffler stressed the three elements necessary for good communication: conduit, the channel by which a message is delivered; content, the structure, logic, and information of a message; and connection, the attraction of the audience’s attention to increase their investment in the material. Naturally, in Graduate School, content often supersedes all other elements, but according to Hoffler’s energetic presentation, using his speech template, which provides a structure into which users can simply personalize with their own content like Mad Libs, students can efficiently balance these three elements in any address or circumstance.

Following Hoffler’s workshops, conference participants enjoyed lunch sponsored by the University Graduate Student Association (UGSA) and then transitioned into breakout sessions to address their communication in research, teaching, career searching, and dissertations and defenses led by experts from the Graduate School staff.

Attendees left with many practical and simple ways to improve their communication in academia and beyond. Haritha Malladi, a Civil Engineering doctoral student, praised the sessions for giving a “take away message [that] was simple and easy to remember” and appreciated the opportunity to relate what she learned about communication to day-to-day scenarios in the classroom in the final breakout session. “I now feel more confident about making myself understood as a teacher,” she says.

Marine Sciences doctoral student Jennifer Dixon echoed these sentiments saying that she left with “some great tools that [she] think[s] will make [her] a better teacher and communicator as whole.” Specifically, Jennifer reports leaving with a solution to speaking too quickly, a problem she has chronically “battled with when teaching and giving presentations.” After the conference, she realized that it isn’t a matter of needing to speak slower, but rather to allow “breaks or breaths between sentences.” As a result, she says, “[her] audience is now able to follow along better, and [she] doesn’t feel as if [she] is going in slow motion.”

Are you a graduate student seeking similar events for your professional development? For more information about PFL and its events, visit where you can learn more about the program and find upcoming PFL-sponsored seminars, workshops, and events. Additionally, to learn more about Alan Hoffler and his company, MillsWyck Communications, visit

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