Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Planes, trains and automobiles 2

Having successfully reached my destination, it was time to get to the conference venue and get things started. I wasn't going to give my talk until the second day of the conference, so I had plenty of time to check out the venue + make sure that my presentation looked OK on the existing equipment. There was, of course, also ample opportunity to mingle and initiate small-talk with other speakers, etc., as well as reflect over the many potential pitfalls of public speaking, which were on display among a number of the speakers.

Which is not to say that the presentation skills have any real bearing on their qualities as scientists, but rather reflect the time and effort they spend planning and making presentations. Some people I know to be very good scientists gave absolutely mind-numbingly boring presentations, often due to (i) lack of apparent storyline and (ii) way excess detail being put on display. Add to that poorly designed slides (including obvious Frankensteining), no time-management (hence skipping of slides to get to the conclusions..), inability to read audience reactions and brutal lack of enthusiasm/charisma, and you've got a pretty good list of the reasons why I detest conferences. Which is not to say that there weren't good speakers - far from it - but the fact of the matter is that a lot of talks are made and given as an afterthought, which makes for a long couple of days for conferencegoers. When I could sit and listen to a talk - well within my field of expertise - and not understand what they had done and why, it speaks volumes. Assuming that I don't absolutely suck at what I do, what they did was take an entire journal article worth of experimental data and conditions, slam-dunk it down sequentially on PowerPoint slides and present it in all its detail within a 30-minute talk. Worse still, the presenter spent the first five minutes of the talk thanking the organizers and showing slides depicting the university he was from, complete with demographics and maps.

And his was the first talk of the session, with two more to go before we got a coffee break..absolutely ricockulous.

After the talks for the day were over and done with, it was time for poster session with refreshments, which was kind of cool. There were lots of posters - many of which I found interesting - and so I got to bother a lot of PhD students and researchers about their work. Lots of talented people out there, that's for sure.

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