Tag Archives: talks

Don’t fear falling at the edge of knowledge

I was talking with one of my grad students last week, and they confessed to being nervous about their upcoming thesis defence. That’s natural enough; most students are nervous about their defences.* And a lot of scientists, at all stages, are nervous about giving talks. Early in my career, I certainly was. My nervousness wasn’t helpful: my talks (which already weren’t great) got worse as I memorized and then rushed them. And actually, I had no reason to worry. You don’t either, and I’ll explain why.

There are, I believe, two main reasons why people get nervous giving talks.  At least, there were two main reasons for my own nervousness. Continue reading

Join me for a reading from “Charles Darwin’s Barnacle and David Bowie’s Spider”!

The book launch and reading for my new book, Charles Darwin’s Barnacle and David Bowie’s Spider, had to be cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.  (Yes, I completely agree that that’s one of the least important of the pandemic’s consequences.)  I was disappointed, because the book is full of stories that are lots of fun to tell.  But I’m doing a reading after all – and because it’s online, you can join it from anywhere.

Interested?  You can join my reading live, or if you prefer, after it happens. I’ll be livestreaming (via Facebook Live) on Sunday, May 3rd at 6 p.m Eastern time (GMT-4); and the video will be available indefinitely, afterward.  You can find it on my own Facebook page, here; or you can find it (with a little more searching) as part of the #CanadaPerforms program of Canada’s National Arts Centre, here.  Or, if you don’t have Facebook, here it is on Vimeo.

By the way: #CanadaPerforms is a national program, to bring you performances and readings from musicians, authors, and more whose  events were disrupted by the pandemic. It’s a fabulous program (and thanks to the NAC and sponsors Facebook Canada, Sirius XM Radio, RBC, Slaight Music, and the Bennett Family Foundation). If you haven’t dipped into #CanadaPerforms, have a look around.  There are hundreds of performances and readings to enjoy.

© Stephen Heard  April 30, 2020

Watch my talk about “Charles Darwin’s Barnacle and David Bowie’s Spider”!

Last week, I gave a talk “at” University College Dublin, as part of their Earth Institute’s series for Earth Week 2020.  I talked about my new book, Charles Darwin’s Barnacle and David Bowie’s Spider (of course), and you can watch the talk here.

It’s about 31 minutes, and I apologize for a sound glitch at about the 8 minute mark.  The audio drops out for about 20 seconds – consider it your chance to get up to refresh your coffee, your beer, or your whatever.

And while you’re here – I have another, upcoming event: Sunday, May 3rd at 6 p.m. Eastern time, I’ll be doing a Facebook Live reading/talk as part of the #CanadaPerforms series from Canada’s National Arts Centre.  You’ll be able to watch that one, live or after the fact, either on my Facebook page or on the NAC’s Facebook page.

© Stephen Heard  April 27, 2020

Conference sitter, or conference sprinter?

Some folks sit; some folks sprint.

I was once a determined sprinter.  Before a conference, I’d study the programme carefully, highlighting and circling and starring talks that looked promising.  Then I’d assemble my schedule: a talk in this session, a talk in that one, a couple of talks in a third, all before the morning coffee break; then back to the same frenzied pace with muffin crumbs still dangling from my lip.

If you’ve tried this, you know how it goes. Continue reading

“Student competition sessions” at conferences are weird

Image: Part of the conference programme for the 2016 International Congress of Entomology.

I’m never surprised when I open up the programme for a conference and see a “Student Competition Session” – a bunch of grad (or sometimes, undergrad) student talks gathered together and judged for prizes*.  Not surprised, but mystified, because I find this distinctly weird. Continue reading

Steve presenting at a conference

Conferencing as an old fogey

Photo: Me hijacking my own talk at CSEE 2016 to shamelessly plug my book.  I don’t look all that old, right?  Photo © Alex Smith, with permission.

I’ve just (as I write this) come from my favourite yearly conference: the Canadian Society for Ecology and Evolution.  It’s my favourite for a number of reasons – among them, really superb science, a broad range of topics, and a lot of friends.  (The latter makes a big difference when you’re conferencing as an introvert.)

I’ve realized something a little bit disturbing.  When I went to my first conference (the Ecological Society of America meeting in 1993, I think), I was young, and a rookie.  I watched the grey-haired old fogeys whose names I knew from the literature, and I knew I should introduce myself and get to know them, but it was hard.  But now, in 2016, I have become a grey-haired old fogey*. Continue reading

For your next conference: poster or talk?

Photo: Poster session, SunShot Grand Challenge Summit and Technology Forum, Denver; Dennis Schroeder/NREL via flickr.com. Public domain (US government agency).

I guess I’ve had conferences on the brain lately, with posts about why conferences have themes and about how I survive conferences as an introvert.  But there’s one question about conferences I hear asked more than any other: Should I give a poster or a talk? Continue reading

“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

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