BOSS case study: Dr. Jen de Beyer
The following is a blog post written by BOSS Praxis Student, Dr. Jen de Beyer.
Jen helps health researchers realise the full potential of their work through clear, complete writing that targets the right audience. She provides writing and editing support, develops resources on how to write fantastic health research articles, and teaches writing and publication skills at the EQUATOR Network's UK Centre in Oxford.
“I’m not really an artistic person”
That statement has been a big part of my identity. I’m the word person – give me some copy to knock out or a swamp of words to edit into a pretty article, and I’m your girl. But creating an actual thing? There’s a reason my need to make has been dominated by baking by the (recipe) book, counted cross stitch, never deviating from the pattern or making up my own, and papercraft, using stamps and die cuts and again following a pattern.
But I had a problem in my professional life. I teach academic writing and publication skills. We’re talking about words, so the slides are just… words.
Participants laughed, shared their experiences, and asked insightful questions in these sessions, while we all pretty much ignored my slides.
Those walls of text summarising the key points did not match the anecdotes, jokes, and engagement. At. All. And fixing them bumped straight into the whole not-artistic thing.
Then I found BOSS.
What Echo was offering sounded like a recipe, a pattern! I know how to follow those! You don’t have to be arty for that, right? I was in. Nervous, but in.
Turns out I’d been telling myself giant porky-pies all this time. When you teach, you try out different ways of explaining a concept, using examples and analogies that might resonate with each participant. The BOSS program started off by talking about not just chucking a load of facts at people, but instead picking a handful of key points and supporting them with, yep, examples and analogies.
And then the breakthrough...
All of those word pictures I’d been painting as I spoke, they really are pictures.
BOSS gave me permission to have my slides match my personal presenting style.
The tone of voice and expression I was using could be reflected in each slide. And that felt…creative, artistic!
Inevitably, you reach a point where you can’t find a stock photo to match the picture you’re building up in your head, whether it’s a word picture or an actual one. Actually creating my own image felt like a terrifying leap forward, but BOSS gave me the baby steps I needed.
I didn’t even realise that that’s what I was doing when I started building icon pictures. BOSS had introduced icons, I was using them as signposts a lot, now I was just using them to signpost different steps in a process…and bam, a picture!
It took 6 months before I got up the courage to try building my own icon-style pictures using Powerpoint shapes.
I was seriously nervous about having my scrappy little drawings up there. But the feedback was so positive, those scrappy people have popped up again and again!
Confused Research Human needs help figuring out when their colleagues should be offered authorship or an acknowledgement on their paper...No ghosts allowed
Teaching from BOSSified slides hasn’t just been more fun for me.
For the first time, my teaching evaluations explicitly mention the slides and handouts – and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.
We spend so much time preparing our materials. It’s fantastic to know that that time is now well-spent and appreciated!
My favourite part of the BOSS [Praxis Package] program is that it doesn’t end when you get to the end of the videos. A year after starting BOSS, with a whole lot of gentle encouragement from Echo in the live coaching chats and online community, I’m taking that next step to actually doodling my own pictures. They haven’t quite made it into a real slide yet, but spending time drawing is helping build that confidence.