Independently organised training
Figures of evidence:
uncover the real value of your data by making effective graphs


Co-station, Brussels,  Friday 28th of June 2019 Register

The beauty of a graphical display doesn’t lie on its looks or its design, but on how effectively it transmits a message. Most importantly: graphs let us unveil the value of our data, they allow us to discover and interpret results that would otherwise remain unseen.

Producing an effective graphs goes well beyond clicking the ‘insert’ or ‘plot’ button of the software you use. What should you focus on when you design your display? How can you ensure that it is readable to everyone? How can you avoid misleading your audience? What is the most effective way of getting your message across?

Our Figures of Evidence training answers all these questions while providing you with the fundamentals of data visualisation. During the training, you will also get a hint of tools to produce effective graphs. We analyse and practice with your own examples, highlighting the dos and don’ts in graphical design. In essence: we guide and encourage you to look at your own data with a critical eye and to come up with the best way to visualise it.

This training is open to everyone: regardless of the organisation you work at or your background, you will learn something valuable with it. For the first time we’re organising it in a neutral environment (not at a specific organisation) so everyone is welcome to join! The maximum number of participants is 15, so don’t miss your chance and register now.

Register

Location, date and price

Where: Co-station Brussels, just by the cathedral

When: 9h – 17h, Friday 28th of June 2019

Price: 195 euros per person, including lunch and coffee breaks

If you are hesitating and would like to have more details about the training, please contact us.

What participants liked about the training

I learnt how to process the data, how to show first the raw data and to try to observe the trends to choose the right way to plot it

You do not have to be an expert in statistics to participate. You are exposed to a lot of interesting exercises plus you have the possibility to show  your own graphs and use your own datasets

Very adequate balance between practice and theory

A lot of useful practice

Overall score given by participants : 3.8/4

Register to the training

Passive voice in scientific writing: angel or devil?

For years, we were told that in scientific writing we needed to use passive voice to sound formal, neutral and serious. More recently, the contrary philosophy bursted in: suddenly, passive voice had to be by all means avoided as it forces hiding the agent of the sentence and creates confusion. This paradigm shift left many of us in the doubt… is using passive voice in formal, scientific writing right or wrong?

Continue reading “Passive voice in scientific writing: angel or devil?”

Training organised in Brussels

Ristretto trains scientists and professionals on effective communication, one that flows naturally from you to your audience.

Our trainings revolve around various communication channels: from presentations to reports or articles, through posters and graphs. Yet, we focus not (only) on producing beautiful documents but mostly on the essence: your message. Via negativa is our motto, first removing or advising against what hurts, to then transfer the concepts of effective communication, applicable from the start. In this journey, we provide you with tools, tips, and guidance towards getting your message across.

As part of our crusade against bad communication habits, we also give advice to organisations by helping them producing meaningful, content-driven presentations, reports, graphs or brochures.

Trainings

Our flagship trainings cover presentation, written documents, and graphs. We also very often develop trainings tailored to your needs.

Consultancy

Next to the trainings, a big part of our work is to advise companies or scientists about various aspects of their scientific communication.

Blog

We love sharing our thoughts and our opinions, check out our latest blog posts.

Ristretto trains scientists and professionals on effective communication, one that flows naturally from you to your audience.

Our trainings revolve around various communication channels: from presentations to reports or articles, through posters and graphs. Yet, we focus not (only) on producing beautiful documents but mostly on the essence: your message. Via negativa is our motto, first removing or advising against what hurts, to then transfer the concepts of effective communication, applicable from the start. In this journey, we provide you with tools, tips, and guidance towards getting your message across.

As part of our crusade against bad communication habits, we also give advice to organisations by helping them producing meaningful, content-driven presentations, reports, graphs or brochures.

Writing bootcamp: kickstart your writing

Domaine des Hautes Fagnes, 6-8 May 2019 Register

As a scientist, the outcome of your work is largely evaluated based on the documents you write. Nonetheless, drafting a coherent story to explain your results in a paper or your future plans in a proposal can be daunting and may even despair you at times. Being able to block slots in your agenda to focus only on writing might also be challenging. And when the time comes and you face a white screen, getting started and not procrastinating becomes a last, additional hurdle.

In this bootcamp, we will address and solve all the issues above by offering:

  1. Three days only focused on your writing in the middle of the Belgian Ardennes. Forget about meetings in the middle of the day, colleagues stepping in your office for advice or worrying about what you’ll have for lunch. We take care of the logistics and provide a calm environment so that you can focus on what matters.
  2. Directed exercises and guidelines on:
    • How to structure your document so that your story flows;
    • Compose an abstract/summary that will captivate your readers;
    • Set up a procedure for revising your documents;
    • Improving the quality of writing improves the quality of thought: principles to communicate with clarity;
    • How not to frustrate yourself when you don’t feel like writing: effectively procrastinate.
  3. Personalised coaching sessions to address the particular issues that block you and networking time with other researchers.

The bootcamp is addressed to researchers with different levels of expertise. Young scientists and senior researchers face different types of challenges: we will accommodate the exercises, guidelines and coaching sessions so that whatever your profile, you take the most of it.

Register

Beginner scientists

You started your scientific career not too long ago and you have your first big writing task. Whether it is your first article or report, you face the following problems:

  • You don’t know where to start;
  • You are blocked or feel it takes a lot of time;
  • You don’t have the complete writing toolbox.

During the writing bootcamp, you will learn very quickly the toolkit and apply the learning outcomes directly with your writing objective in mind.

Intermediate scientists

You already have two to four years experience as a scientist. Yet, you feel you are still missing some tips and tricks to write more effectively. Moreover, you want to set aside a significant block of time to finish or kickstart a big writing task such as a PhD thesis.

Your two main takeaways from the writing bootcamp are

  1. coaching sessions to target your specific challenges;
  2. time and inspiring location to tackle the big task ahead.
Expert scientists

You have already several years of experience as a scientist. You have written several articles, reports or proposals. Your biggest challenge is to dedicate time to your writing task, while all the other tasks are crawling on you.

For you, the writing bootcamp will have a major payoff by

  • blocking time in your agenda;
  • setting you in the right conditions for writing;
  • networking with other senior researchers.

Content

The writing bootcamp is a versatile and flexible seminar. With our help, you pick the activities that match your needs:

  • toolkit: get the scientific prose under control;
  • effective writing: be specific, get your message across;
  • activation exercices: get over blockage;
  • one-to-one coaching: solve a specific issue.

Along with the lessons, tips, and coaching, we will finish the bootcamp by setting up an ambitious yet achievable writing plan for the coming four weeks. You will jumpstart the habit and spark the passion for writing.

In preparation for this Writing Bootcamp, we are dedicating a series of blog post focused on various aspects of scientific writing, which you can check here.

Register

What did participants like about the training

Good balance between writing/relaxing and discussion sessions.

The combination of training sessions, writing sessions, and coaching.

The variety of methods proposed to prepare and trigger the writing process.

Learning how to structure a document and a paragraph, it’s something I never thought about previously. Before the training, I was just writing what I felt sounded well but not how it was efficient.

Overall score given by participants : 3.8/4

Register

Location, date and price

The writing bootcamp will be organised from the 6th to the 8th of May 2019 in Domaine des Hautes Fagnes.

Your registration includes meals, coffee breaks, single room, evening access to the wellness centre and of course all training activities for 950€.

If you are hesitating and would like to have a more detailed programme of this writing bootcamp, please contact us.

Register to the bootcamp

Consultancy

At Ristretto, we advice organisations with their communication issues by helping them producing presentations, reports, graphs, posters, brochures… our background enables us to well understand the technical issues and create content-driven material that focuses on delivering clear messages while reducing noise and being truthful with the data.

We adapt to organisations working in agile methodology: we have devised a transparent method so that the company can have direct access to the progress and integrate it in their project management. For more information, don’t hesitate to contact us.

Some examples of our consultancy services are:

 

moveUP needed a document explaining the integrated rehabilitation solution they offer for patients after a knee or hip replacement surgery. The target audience was the patient’s treating surgeon, who would normally prescribe their rehabilitation path.

We opted for a two-page A5 brochure that be could easily distributed at conferences. On the first page, we provided  context and designed a figure to describe in a concise, clear way in what their solution consists. The second page included the key advantages of moveUP for the treating surgeon as well as evidence that supports their positive results.

 

 

Prof. Alessandro Parente wanted our input to rework some slides that explained his work to a non-technical audience. We only suggested small changes—based on his original slides—which helped to better illustrate the messages he wanted to transmit.

Initial slide

Our suggestion

 

Initial slide

Our suggestion

Trainings

At Ristretto, we strongly believe in effective scientific communication. Our foundational trainings cover key concepts:

In addition, we continuously develop specific trainings tailored to your needs. Don’t hesitate to contact us.


The science of scientific writing: storytelling facts, removing junk

As a scientist, researcher or professional it is not enough to excel at your daily tasks: it is also of utmost importance to be able to effectively write down your work in the form of conference articles, applications, proposals, reports, thesis, etc. Sadly though, scientific reports or articles are often hard to read. Most of the people assume that it is due to the complexity of the concepts, data and analysis. In this workshop, you will learn that with the right structure in place and by applying a series of communication principles, complex ideas can be communicated with clarity, without oversimplifying scientific issues.

The training combines exercises with short lectures dealing with the following topics:

  • Choose the right title for your work
  • Compose an abstract that will captivate your readers
  • Effectively structure your paper/report so that ideas will flow
  • Set up a procedure for revising your documents
  • Improving the quality of writing improves the quality of thought: principles to communicate withclarity
  • Centre yourself and effectively procrastinate

This workshop is usually offered in two full days followed by a written exercise to be carried out at home on which participants receive detailed feedback.


Inspiring others: prepare and deliver the best presentation of your life… every time

How to captivate your audience, get your message across and avoid that no one gets distracted while you are presenting? Conferences, workshops, interviews, competitions… you will face plenty of situations during your career where you need to present your work and convince your audience.

This workshop will empower you, as a presenter, by concentrating on the fundamentals of effective communication: give focus to the message, reduce noise and build a structure that will allow your public to follow and remember your presentation. By means of an interactive approach, the training will introduce you to the five steps towards the best presentations:

  1. Brainstorm the main ideas
  2. Get the storyboard
  3. Build effective slides
  4. Stand out of the crowd and deliver your presentation
  5. Don’t be shy: questions are there to help

This training usually takes place over 2.5 days: during two days (which don’t need to be consecutive) participants work together with the coaches, familiarising themselves with the communication principles and applying them through exercises. As a final ‘test’, each participant delivers a presentation in her/his field and receives detailed feedback during a half day follow-up session that takes place in smaller groups.


Figures of evidence: uncover the real value of your data by making effective graphs

Researchers and professionals often need to plot their results in the form of graphical displays which should show the data in the most clear, simple and elegant way. A good graph does not mean a beautiful-looking one, but one that rather enables an optimal visualisation of the data whilst transmitting a coherent message. In this training, we coach participants to look at their data with a critical eye in order to find the best way of displaying their results. Following Edward Tufte’s recommendations, we introduce different techniques to effectively represent both quantitative and qualitative information; thus, the training is relevant to participants from any discipline. We use examples sent by the attendees themselves to identify the ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ in graphical displays, always focusing on the principles that lead to understandable, compelling figures.
This workshop usually spans over two days: the first day revolves around the fundaments of effective graphs, followed by a session where the participants show and discuss good and bad examples from their own domaines. The second day consists of a series of group exercises where the attendees are exposed to different data sets and need to find the appropriate way of representing the information. Finally, we provide guidance on the different available tools and procedures for producing powerful, straightforward graphs.
Three months after the training, we follow up with the participants. We check up with them, identify what are the possible blocking aspects in applying the principles and try to mitigate these issues.

Is your supervisor your best opponent?

One of my favourite time of the day, aside from having quality time with my family, is when I discuss (read argue) with the PhD students I advise or train.
I am a big fan of feedback, as I believe this is the only way we can learn (aka deliberate practice). So I enjoy being challenged by the researchers as much as I like to challenge them.

This post includes a simple technique to challenge your advisor, it then explains why it is important to do so, and it finishes with how you can apply it to yourself. Continue reading “Is your supervisor your best opponent?”

Effective template to write your answer to reviewers

You have just received the reviews for your article. After a long wait, this is the most painful step. The main issue is that reviewers and authors don’t speak the same language. To speed up and ease this process, authors should address the comments so that reviewers can easily assess how their feedback has been tackled. What is then the most effective way of writing your rebuttal?

Continue reading “Effective template to write your answer to reviewers”

Get ready for your interview at FWO

Get ready for your interview at FWO

You have been invited to the interview for your SB fellowship, and although it should already be a success, if feels like you are still facing mountain you need to climb.

The objective of this training is to give you the tools and directions to navigate to the top. You will get a combination of tips and tricks on effective communication and you will learn how to build your presentation and handle questions—all in just a few hours of training. In addition, in the longest version (2 days), you will also perform a try-out of your interview with detailed feedback.

The training will help you to prepare for the FWO interview; however, you will be able to apply the lessons you learn throughout the presentations and competitions that you may face during your entire PhD.

Homework

For your first day of training, please prepare a 1 minute elevator pitch. The objective is for you to be able to explain to the rest of the group what you do, in a compelling way, in only 1 min. Trust us, this will come in handy in  many occasions throughout your PhD!

2-day training:

day 1

  • Presentation and exercises on effective communication;
  • Build-up of the presentation;
  • Stage performance and stage fright;
  • Prepare and take advantage of Q/A sessions.

day 2

  • Presentations followed by Q&A.
  • The audience and the trainer provide feedback.

1-page detailed report for each candidate One week after the training, each student receives a one-page summary on the three main aspects he/she should focus his/her energy before the interview.

For the second day of the training, the group will be split in two. Each participant will present in one of the sub-groups but can attend and provide feedback in both.

1-day training:

  • Presentation and exercises on effective communication;
  • Stage performance and stage fright;
  • Prepare and take advantage of Q/A sessions;
  • Addressing specific questions from the participants.

Individual follow-up one to two weeks later through Skype

Registration:

(click on the date to register)

2-day training:

  • 24/9 and 28/9 — Campus Etterbeek:
    24/09: Room M015  (building M – ground floor)
    28/09: Room M420 (building M – 4th floor)
  • 1/10 and 5/10 — Campus Jette:
    1/10 and 5/10: Room FMR

1-day training:

  • 3/10 — Campus Etterbeek:
    Room M015 (Building M – ground floor)

You want to write articles that get accepted? Do reviews.

At the end of my PhD, I started receiving invitation to review articles. At that moment, I felt honoured as if I had received the membership card of a very selective club.
Later, as a postdoc and professor, the number of invitations increased while my time available for such type of tasks decreased. However, I noticed something interesting that I wanted to test with my students.

Continue reading “You want to write articles that get accepted? Do reviews.”

Posts

Here are my latests posts:

Anthropomorphism or the art
of humanising nonhuman subjects
- By trying to be objective in academic writing, we sometimes attribute human actions to objects that cannot undertake them, like articles, reviews or experiments. Learn more about anthropomorphism and how to avoid it in this post.
Passive voice in scientific writing: angel or devil?- Should passive voice be used or avoided in scientific writing?
What if your PhD didn’t need to feel as long and tiring as a marathon?- In many ways, pursuing a PhD resembles running a marathon: long distance, loneliness and fatigue are seemingly insurmountable obstacles and nobody can hope to reach the end without adequate training. It might be difficult to remove fatigue from the picture; however, something could be improved concerning the other two ‘painful’ elements of this process: all you need to do is split up your marathon into a series of shorter-distance sprints and share the challenge with a team of running partners.
Not in the mood to write? Why you should still show up, even if the muse doesn’t- A very common belief among scientists is that they need the right state of mind in order to be able to write. This might seem like an excellent excuse in order to procrastinate... but does motivation actually work like that? Find out how to chase your muse, reduce frustration and get your writing flowing in our new Road to Bootcamp blog post!
Want to procrastinate less and be an effective writer? Start writing your articles early enough- If you ask researchers about their main issues when it comes to writing, procrastination always appears on top of the list. Why do we procrastinate when it comes to writing a scientific document? For multiple reasons, but many of them are related to the fear of the blank page, also known as writer’s block.
Succeeding at your scholarship interview:
Advice from Prof. Alessandro Parente
- We interview Alessandro Parente, Professor at the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) and frequent member of juries for the FRIA and FNRS fellowships. He talked with us about his experience as a jury member, and he gave us some precious tips for students preparing for such scholarships.
Are your documents colourblind friendly?- Did you know that up to 8% of the population is colourblind? How can you produce graphs and presentations that are colourblind friendly? Find out in our new post!
The forbidden pie charts- You want effective graphs? Replace your pie charts with these alternatives.
You want to be selected, be specific- On a voting day, being specific is important. The same is true when you want to be picked in science.
9 laws towards successful MSc theses- MSc thesis is an important step for all students. Success is more than a set of rules but following these 9 laws might avoid many issues.
Is your supervisor your best opponent?- One of my favorite time of the day, is when I discuss (read argue) with the PhD students I advise. This post includes a simple technique to challenge your advisor.
Effective template to write your answer to reviewers- You have just received the reviews for your article. Even if this step is the most painful you should make sure to address effectively the comments.
You want to write articles that get accepted? Do reviews.- At the end of my PhD, I started receiving invitation to review articles. At that moment, I felt honoured as if I had received the membership card of a very selective club. Later, as a postdoc and professor, the number of invitations increased while my time available for such type of tasks decreased. However, I …
Get back from conferences with actionable notes- How many times did you come back from a conference with plenty of ideas and notes, having the motivation to act upon all these as soon as your were back in office?
Are you specific without being comprehensive?- You plan the interview for a scholarship or the text for a proposal and you make a statement. Unfortunately, you are not sure if it is entirely true. Who never felt like that. I sure did! What do you do as a response? You drop a weasel word to protect yourself from future criticism.
I wish I knew about these books when I started my PhD- This post collects all the books I wish I knew about when I started my PhD. Don’t hesitate to contact me if you have found one that is not in this list.
The authorship manifesto- Getting your name on an article is becoming more and more important in the “publish or perish” era. Although I believe writing papers is an excellent objective for doing research, deciding who should be on the paper can become tricky in some cases. Here is the result of an intense discussion during the team building …
How to double your work efficiency with a simple technique- Many people might say that multi-tasking is the one thing they do well. In this hyper-connected world, we could think that this is the only way forward. My personal experience and the many readings I have done recently indicate the contrary. If you want to cut your work time by 50%, change to single-tasking.
Resources on effective presentations: from the idea to the delivery- This webpage gathers some interesting resources on effective presentations.
How to keep your slides effective while providing extra information when sending them?- I know this is not useful in my slide but when I send my slides, I want people to have these extra pieces of information. You have probably used this excuse (used it myself too) when someone told you that your slides were a bit crowded with information.
The evolutionary brainstorming: do it as your brain was wired to do it- You have probably been in many brainstorming meetings where you encountered one of the two following scenarios: “Dear colleagues, what are your ideas on this project…”, followed by a long silence, as if there was a brainstorming switch to turn on; You suggest an idea and immediately someone is saying: “No, this is not possible, …
Does your article address these important issues?- This post gathers the most common problems encountered in the articles I have to review.
The graphs the way they should be: effective- The library for doing graphs the way I want them.
Clear, accurate, concise writing- Some common sense to be remembered when you write anything.
Boost your work efficiency with the following tools and techniques- Post updated regularly with the gems to boost efficiency.
Do you have problems communicating or meeting with your supervisor?- Get in touch with your supervisor as efficiently as possible.
Are you following these steps when submitting your paper?- A timeline towards having your paper submitted.
Are you lost after the submission of your manuscript?- What you should do once your paper is submitted.
Instructions for Master Thesis- Details about the Master Thesis.

The authorship manifesto

Getting your name on an article is becoming more and more important in the “publish or perish” era. Although I believe writing papers is an excellent objective for doing research, deciding who should be on the paper can become tricky in some cases.

Here is the result of an intense discussion during the team building (with ATM, FLOW and BURN research groups) in 2017. You can directly jump to the summary table at the end if you are in a hurry.

Continue reading “The authorship manifesto”

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Interests presentation

Interests graphs

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About

Marina Montero Carrero is an electromechanical engineer who has studied in Valencia, Stockholm and Brussels. Additionally, she holds an MSc in sustainable energy from Imperial College London. She has worked as a researcher at the London School of Economics, as a trainee at the European Commission, and in 2018 she completed her PhD at the University of Brussels (VUB and ULB).

She has always had a passion for design which, throughout her academic career, has grown together with her interest in scientific communication. At Ristretto, she aims at combining science, design and communication to help organisations and individuals attaining their communication goals.

Francesco Contino is Professor at the University of Brussels (VUB) since 2012. He is author of about 100 publications on various topics related to energy.

Through his research, he has developed a passion for scientific communication and productivity in academia. He was among the Belgian finalist of Famelab 2015 and participated to BrightClub in 2015. He enjoys searching for fun experiments and explaining combustion and explosion to students.

The daily supervision of PhD students lead him to gather on this website solutions to questions and challenges. His objective is to smoothly drive them to being independent researchers.

The evolutionary brainstorming: do it as your brain was wired to do it

  1. You have probably been in many brainstorming meetings where you encountered one of the two following scenarios:
  2. “Dear colleagues, what are your ideas on this project…”, followed by a long silence, as if there was a brainstorming switch to turn on;
  3. You suggest an idea and immediately someone is saying: “No, this is not possible, it’s not a very good idea!”.

These two scenarios gather the two main pitfalls of effective brainstormings: priming and judging. Continue reading “The evolutionary brainstorming: do it as your brain was wired to do it”

Does your article address these important issues?

I often need to review articles and give feedback on them. I find my feedback is most efficient when I can focus on the content (results, figures, etc) and the flow of the article. These aspects of the article are what interest the first author most, even if he or she is also happy to get a review of the typos or other secondary problems. Yet, more often than not, many of my comments are about things that can be more or less automatised. This post is a checklist for the common problems I encounter. Continue reading “Does your article address these important issues?”

Just a last step…

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Make sure to confirm your e-mail and you’ll be brought back here with a little something.

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Thank you for your registration

You have just registered to the updates of this website. As I have been taught to always treat my guests properly, here is a small welcome gift that I reserve only for the subscribers.

Selection of talks:

Think Fast, Talk Smart: Communication Techniques – Matt Abrahams

How to speak so that people want to listen – Julian Treasure (make sure you try the warm-up technique around 8:00)

The best stats you’ve ever seen – Hans Rosling

Your body language shapes who you are – Amy Cuddy

Choosing the right graph – Jean-Luc Doumont

 

Selection of blogs (I trust you to come back here):

Cal Newport

Thesis Whisperer

 

Are you lost after the submission of your manuscript?

After submitting your manuscript, the hard wait for the review starts. You could think that everything is handled perfectly on a first-in-first-out basis. But this is unfortunately not the case. It is not an easy job to be an editor, it takes a lot of effort, time investment and organisation. So you have to do everything to facilitate their work and this requires some follow-up from your side. Here are the most important steps. Continue reading “Are you lost after the submission of your manuscript?”

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