Monday, October 10, 2005

Maxims for Malfeasant Speakers

This is good. Over on Pharyngula, PZ Myers cites a lovely set of bad rules for public lectures: How to give a bad talk. Things to bear in mind for upcoming SBL presentations.

* First and foremost, your work is clearly superior to all others and this fact entitles you to ignore any complaints that others may have if they happen to follow you in the speaking schedule.

* Use the words "new" and "important" often when describing your work. It is particularly vital that both words show up in the title, the abstract, the first paragraphs, and the conclusion.

* Make it clear that, even if other people's names are associated with the work, you did most of it all by yourself. The others will understand you are only getting the credit you deserve.

* Don't bother distinguishing between what is planned and what has been accomplished. Anything that isn't finished yet cannot be that difficult; it's just a matter of doing it.

* Repeat, often, things your audience already knows.

* Repeat, often, things you have already said.

* Use lots of adjectives and adverbs.

* Use lots of acronyms and jargon.

* Remember that form is more important than content: Make sure your visuals conform to corporate standards, even if they don't say anything of consequence.

* Remember that form is more important than content: Use lots of gratuitous graphics in your visuals.

* Spend a very long time on each slide.

* Repeat the information on each slide at least three times -- before you show the slide, while it is projected, and after you have passed it.

* Take much longer than your allotted time, even if you don't have that much to say.

* Whenever possible, draw figures and write out equations while giving the talk. This adds to the suspense and gives you excuses should they not quite support your point. Better yet, write out tables of data during the talk.

* Always have many slides, each with many, many points on them, all in very tiny fonts. Better yet, print the entire presentation on slides and read it out loud.

* Use the "strip tease" technique when working with overhead transparencies. By slowly revealing each point on each transparency with a paper blind, you keep your audience from getting ahead of you. They shouldn't be allowed to read any faster than you can speak.

* Stand between your audience and the projection screen. If they have to peer around you to see what's on your slide, that will force them to pay attention.

* If you must point to something on a slide, be sure to point to the slide itself. Never point to the screen; it is much more effective to put big shadow next to your material than simply to point to it.

* Speak softly so everyone has to listen real hard to what you are saying. That way they will hear what they want to hear, rather than what you said, and it won't be your fault if they misunderstand you.

* Answer all questions in fine detail. The person asking seldom wants just the answer to their question. Besides, this may be the last chance you will ever have to convince the audience that you have complete mastery of the topic.

* Go off onto tangents, especially tangents of tangents. This shows that your work touches all aspects of your field and the human condition.

* Should the moderator tell you that your time is up, look surprised, but keep right on going at the same pace as before. Otherwise your audience will be disappointed that they did not hear your entire talk.

* Never rehearse your talk, or review the slides if you have not given it in a long time. This removes the spontaneity, and, besides, the audience enjoys it when you get lost or confused; it adds humor to the presentation and they don't really see it as wasting their time.

To be taken in conjunction with Danuta’s Advice for Lecturers, mentioned by Stephen Carlson a couple of weeks ago.


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