Trying to mentor post-doc scientists

A few weeks ago I was invited to a team mentoring session to help MIT post-docs, many of whom have problems finding work in their field. So a special program has been developed at MIT to help them  to raise capital to create products and/or companies from lab work or invention. The idea was to give them feedback on their investor pitches that they would be delivering at an upcoming meeting.

I found it very taxing trying to follow the post-docs presentations. They tended to have very complex, very technical slides which they then proceeded to explicate in great detail while passing a laser pointer over pertinent areas of the slide.

During a break I happened to walk by a classroom where I heard a professor lecturing. The door to the classroom was slightly ajar, so I stopped to observe what he was doing – which  was standing in front of a white board which was covered with a very complex diagram and lecturing, while he illuminated various sections of his diagram with a laser pointer.

It then dawned on me that these post-docs, who were going to be talking to a
non-technical, non-scientific audience and asking for money to fund the transformation of the lab work into commercial product, were delivering not pitches, but academic lectures. That’s not a good way to raise money, and I told the group as politely as I could that they needed to redo all their presentations from lectures to fellow scientists into pitches for a non-academic audience , including a concluding “ask.”

Whether my advice was heeded, I don’t know, but it was heard. The moral of this story is to know the audience and know the purpose of your mentee’s presentation  or meeting. Without this key information, your mentoring will be wasted.

Author: Mentorphile

Mentor, coach, and advisor to entrepreneurs, small businesses, and non-profit organizations. General manager with significant experience in both for-profit and non-profit organizations. Focus on media and information. On founding team of four venture-backed companies. Currently Chairman of Popsleuth, Inc., maker of the Endorfyn app for keeping fans updated on new stuff from their favorite artists.

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