Category Archives: speaking

Cat chasing laser pointer

Can we just put down the laser pointers please?

Photo © Hey Paul via flickr.com, CC BY 2.0.

I’ve been to three conferences this summer, and seen dozens of talks: some short and some overlong; some riveting and some dull; some good and some bad.  Wouldn’t it be nice if the good talks could be even better, and the bad talks a bit less bad?  There are some difficult ways to accomplish that, but here’s an easy one:  let’s all agree to leave the laser pointers to our cats. Continue reading

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“Two cultures” and the talk that terrified me

I’ve mentioned in two recent posts that I don’t get nervous any more when I get up to give a talk. This is partly just age and experience, but more importantly, it’s because I figured out something unsurprising but important: that when I give a talk about my work, I know more about the subject than anybody else in the room.

I did admit, though, to a recent exception: a talk I was terrified to give. I think it’s the exception that proves my know-more-than-anybody-else rule*, and it taught me something I didn’t know about potential relationships between academics in the sciences and the humanities. It happened because I did the (to me) unthinkable: I gave the departmental seminar in my university’s Department of English. Continue reading

Don’t fear falling at the edge of knowledge

Image credit: Lava entering the ocean in Hawaii; US Geological Survey

When I was a grad student, and even a young professor, giving talks scared me: standing at the front of a room with my first slide on the screen made me very, very nervous. The result, of course, was that my talks weren’t very good (and I gave them too fast). I’m quite sure my nerves didn’t make me unusual, but I’ve learned since that actually, I had no reason to worry. You don’t either, and I’ll explain why. Continue reading

Are scientists “we” or “they”?

Last week I blogged about what used to be one of my pet peeves: the apparent inability of senior academics to finish conference talks on time. I’ve been forced to move this off my pet-peeve list partly because I’ve joined the ranks of those ramblers-on. That means I’ve got room to add something new to the list, and here it is: why are students (both undergraduate and graduate) so reluctant to identify themselves as scientists?

It may not be obvious what I mean by that, so bear with me. Continue reading

Why do senior academics ramble on?

Last month I was at the annual conference of the Canadian Society for Ecology and Evolution. It was a great meeting, as usual, and contributing to that were a whole lot of great talks.

I’ve seen a lot of conference talks over the years, and I’ve noticed a pattern: surprisingly often, grad students finish early, while senior scientists run long*. What I realized this year is that I’ve become part of that pattern: this year, like the last couple, my talks have run longer than planned (see the nifty little figure above). Nobody had to haul me away from the podium; but my talk, which ran a nice tidy 12 minutes in practice, was 14 minutes delivered (using up most of my 3 minutes for questions). As a grad student, I often had a couple of extra minutes to spare. So why is this? Continue reading