Thursday, August 28, 2008


Talking Technically

Unfortunately, many people in our field are poor speakers. That does not only apply to graduate students, but also to more senior researchers.
Recently there have been some seminar talks in SoC by supposedly famous professors that were were just amazingly boring and turned out to be a total waste of time.
But today there is finally a seminar talk that is interesting and fun to attend. The topic of the talk is about how to give a good talk. It is given by Dr Terence Sim and the aims at making life easier for students who have to present their research (e.g. PhD thesis defense) and those who have to listen to their talks.

A common misconception about giving a research talk is that the talk should cover EVERYTHING that you have done in your work and that is written in your paper. Instead the talk should tell a story about the research you have done. The paper is of course also telling a story about the research you have done, but it is important to realize that the two stories are not necessarily the same. So instead of "zipping" the content of the paper and squeezing it into a (usually short) talk, the talk should be an interesting story about the work you have done. If somebody wants to know more details about your work, he can always read your paper.

Another important point is to have enough redundancy in your talk:

1. Tell them what you are going to tell them
2. Tell them
3. Tell them what you have told them

The reason is that the audience only has a limited short term memory, which means that the average listener in your audience will only memorize 7 (+/-2) items of your talk at a time. So if you have a lot of details in your talk, the chance is that many in the audience have already forgotten what you said in the beginning when you are in the middle of your talk.

Unfortunately, as with almost everything, it is always easier to agree to good advice to how to give a talk then actually giving a good talk yourself...


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