Thursday, November 5, 2009


Tuesday I finally got to give the award acceptance talk/lecture in (or rather just outside of) Goth'N'Burg. It was supposed to happen back in August, but some kind of flu totally kicked my ass and I had to cancel, which major-league sucked. Thus I was pretty dead-set on a) showing up and b) giving one hell of a performance this time.

The presentation went well and I was able to connect with the audience, which in an ideal world would've had a few more asses in the seats. I also got a bunch of questions pertaining to extrapolations of the presented data, which was a good sign, as opposed to questions which can be answered by restating material that's already presented, which might indicate that I didn't do a very good job of explaining the data set. A lot of the questions came from a researcher orginally hailing from California. Although she spoke Swedish just fine, I shamelessly used her as an alibi to give the presentation in English "so as to avoid any kind of ambiguity". The Scandinavian languages are exactly different enough as to be the cause of confusion when presenting scientific data based on terminology which is translated from English to begin with.

Said Californian also provided a conversation partner during lunch, where we could do the patented "what kinds of food from the US do you miss in Scandinavia" bit. After rattling off Taco Bell and Johns, Christy mentioned that she missed this quaint Southern restaurant chain called the Cracker Barrel that she always stopped by when she drove cross-country. It's very unlikely that someone not familiar with the southern US is familiar with this chain, and so one of the Swedish people at the table asked what Cracker Barrel was.

This represented an opportunity for a pun too good to pass up, so I turned to the guy and said something like "In Norway, we call it 'Utendørs badestamp' (Outdoor hot tub)."

Tumbleweeds flew by. Quizzical faces were turned in my direction. Epic joke fail.

Turns out that Christy wasn't familiar enough with Swedish/Norwegian to get the joke, and the Swedes weren't familiar enough with American slang to connect the dots. Oh well.

Come on; it's pure comedy gold - Cracker barrel = outdoor hot tub, 'cause the only ones insane enough to buy these things in Norway and think it's a good idea to sit in a tub of water while it snows are whiter than Caspar the friendly ghost washing down a piece of white bread with a big glass of milk whilst wearing a knitted sweater featuring a moose.

That's Demetri Martin funny right there.

The only thing I would've done differently has to do with the fact that the PowerPoint slides were made before I read Presentation Zen, and there was absolutely no way I could justify spending a lot of time making a new one from scratch. I was actually quite happy with this talk back when I made it, but looking at it post Presentation Zen, it could've been SO much better. It didn't look amateur-like, but I never would've used that many bullet point slides now, despite the fact that this made the job of presenting a lot easier, with less to remember. This presentation, compared to the talk I gave in Oslo a couple of weeks back, also served as an example of why you lose a lot of flexibility and slide real-estate by using a company - or in my case laboratory - template.

I REALLY recommend the book Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds.


Anders said...

Your "original" presentation are not as heavy loaded with bullet points and text as many other presentations I've seen (when I quickly browsed through some slides). F.x., at my work place, the standard is bullet points on three different levels on one slide!

Also, I do think you have a real good talent for making simple figures that explains complex matters. So was the case for the figures in this presentation as well. At least for the few parts I saw.

Wilhelm said...


How 'bout some love for my cracker barrel joke?

Anders said...

I know of several other, slightly less PC jokes with the word "crack" in them that the company present would get, but I guess the facial expression after one of those would not be "quizzical"...

Seriously, it was a good joke. Don't they have outdoor tubes in Sweden? Is this a Norwegian thing only?

Wilhelm said...

Hell if I know.

In countries with a warmer climate it's not such a bad idea, but in Norway................

At least don't complain about energy consumption from Canadian oil sand fields if you're running one of those is what I'm sayin'

Anders said...

...and you do not want to know the bacteria content in those tubs. Trust me.

Wilhelm said...

LOL...damn straight I don't want to know that