Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Learn to give a talk already.

Our weekly department seminar series (faculty inviting faculty) ended last week, THANK GOD. Over the last couple of years it seems like the bad talks exceeded the good talks by a large margin. In my opinion it is because many of the talks exhibited at least one of the following traits:
1. No clear story or message.
People who are not familiar with your research are not going to be able to follow what you are saying when you go off topic every other slide, or continually go back to previous slides because you forgot something.
2. No enthusiasm.
If you can't get it up for your own research, why should we? We hauled our asses to the seminar room, so the least you can do is speak with a little enthusiasm. If you need to, fake it.
3. Staying on one slide for eternity.
OK, only one person did this, but this person literally had 4 slides (total) for a 45-minute seminar. I am not kidding.
4. Learn to stay within the time limits.
It is beyond irritating when speakers take it upon themselves to go WAY THE HELL over the time limit. Furthermore, I don't believe for a second that these people don't know that their talk is too long. When you have more slides than minutes in your presentation, guess what, your probably over the time limit. This is even more annoying at meetings because it is disrespectful to everyone who presents after you during that session, and to the people that were able to stay within the predetermined amount of time.
5. Don't know who your audience is.
Most academic research scientists want to see data, not disgusting pictures of people riddled with diseases. One of our invited speakers worked on HPV and did some really great and important work, but all that the people who attended the seminar remember are pictures of assholes and vaginas full of warts. When I say full of warts, I mean FULL OF FUCKING WARTS. For at least a week, I saw wart-laden assholes every time I closed my eyes.

Most of these problems can be avoided with a little practice. Wouldn't you prefer giving a talk where people actually pay attention? I would.

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