When the UCOM ESRs Jingyu, Mandeep and Basil joined the project in the year 2019, they decided to implement outreach activities as Marie- Curie Ambassadors addressing university students. They wanted to introduce the students to the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions, and to inform them about the research work conducted by the UCOM consortium.  

But in the year 2020, the restrictions related to the Covid-19 pandemic did not give the researchers the chance to implement this activity in-person. Instead, they arranged online events to achieve their purpose.  

People have lengthy discussions upon the question: “If you replace an in-person activity with an online, can you expect to have a significant impact on your audience?” Let’s see how this applies to the implementation of an MSCA outreach activity by narrowing this question to “If an MSCA researcher replaces an in-person outreach activity with an online, can they expect to have a significant impact on their audience?” Jingyu, Mandeep and Basil would say “Yes, you can.” Because if you do not have a choice, due to the social distancing rules that apply worldwide nowadays, then your alternative would be: “No activity and no impact at all”.  

Of course, if you will deliver a presentation online, then you will face some difficulties: The absence of the face-to-face human interaction tests the nerves of the presenter, and the lack of the audience’s reaction during the presentation can also be stressful for the speaker. But if you wait until the end of the online event to evaluate the impact you have on your audience, then you might be pleasantly surprised. 

30 September 2020: Jingyu arranged an online meeting with his supervisor and the students of his former research group at Northwestern Polytechnical University China
9 November 2020: Mandeep and Basil hosted an online event for the master’s students of Sorbonne University

The ESRs had the chance to talk about things that were important for the specific audience, the UCOM research objectives and the funding opportunities offered by the European Commission to early stage researchers. They had to work hard before the event to design a presentation that would be suitable for their target audience; an ideal opportunity for the development of their communication skills. And yes, during their presentation they could not figure out if the people were listening or not, as is usually the case when you deliver a presentation online. But after the presentation, during the Q&A session, they were happy to receive a lot of questions that proved not only that their audience was listening, but also that the students found the information provided really useful. And they wanted to know more.  

So, let’s imagine that you are a master’s student wondering whether you will pursue a PhD or not, or an early stage researcher looking for a research related job. Would you prefer to wait for an in-person event to find out which funding opportunities could help you make your next career move?