While many may fear it, Rula Karapatsakis genuinely enjoys public speaking.

“I expressed interest in speaking at the Society of Research Administrators (SRA), Michigan Chapter conference, for two sessions and was pleasantly surprised to be accepted for both presentations,” said Karapatsakis, MICHR Finance Manager.

The conference took place in April, 2023 at Michigan State University, where Rula would present “Budgeting for a Research Grant” and “Research Post Award Game Land” workshops.

The Budgeting session guides attendees through the process of creating a federal budget and budget justification, emphasizing the importance of aligning the scientific objectives to the budget. It covers various budget categories and stresses that a budget must be allowable, allocable, reasonable, and consistently treated.

The latter session, “Research Post Award Game Land,” is a highly interactive workshop. Participants are divided into two teams and engage in real-life scenarios related to post-award management. They are challenged to solve problems and earn points for correct answers and active participation. At the end of the session, both teams are celebrated as winners.

“When I committed to the event, I had no idea how busy the MICHR Finance team would be at that time. We were not only dealing with the new CTSA Grant award, but also the handling of closeouts of previous awards and other tasks,” she said. “On top of that, I got very sick just before that time, that set me behind on my day-to-day work duties and getting prepared for presenting the sessions. And, after three years of presenting the sessions remotely, it is easy to forget what all is involved in presenting in-person.”

Nonetheless, Rula managed to prepare for both sessions and made the drive to East Lansing. Arriving at the first session’s location well in advance, she connected her flash drive to the laptop and everything seemed in order. However, a conference staff member soon informed her that she was scheduled to present at a different location. Upon reaching the new room, she found that someone else was already set up to present, also without being informed of the change. After a brief discussion, they managed to switch the content displayed on the screen “with zero seconds to spare.”

Despite the initial setback, Rula’s first presentation went smoothly, with active audience participation and insightful questions. The lunch break between her two sessions provided her with an opportunity to relax, fully prepare for the second session, and spend quality time with her son, who attends MSU. She also took advantage of the break to network with friends and meet new research administrators.

“I had plenty of time before my second session, so I was taking it easy and taking my time getting to the next location to set up,” explained Karapatsakis. “When I got there, I noticed immediately that the presentation screen behind me was huge – as big as a movie screen – but what stressed me out was the complicated keypad by the computer to connect to that huge presentation screen.”

Rula searched for a technical expert’s phone number and left a message seeking assistance. As the room filled up, the technical support failed to arrive. With little time left, Rula figured out how to connect to the screen.

“Yes! My presentation was live on the screen with again, zero seconds to spare. For the second time, I was feeling a bit overwhelmed by another close call and by the size of the audience, I just smiled and then went on to give one of my best presentations!”

Lessons learned?

  • Always be willing to share your expertise with others.

  • Paying back to your profession is appreciated by many.

  • It is never too early to prepare.

  • Be prepared for unexpected events at any time.

  • Enjoy the ride, even if it’s a bit bumpy!