Wednesday, June 27, 2012

What not to do if you are speaking at a conference

If your purpose is to communicate (and not to show off), beware of these errors:

1. Do not overfill your speech with information. Remember that LESS IS MORE: the less information you convey, the more chances you will have to be able to convey them effectively.

2. The time allotted to your speech will be anyway too short to achieve more than one purpose. Thus, focus on what is really important.

3. Don't worry: Everyone knows you know a lot about your subject. In fact, everyone knows a lot about at least one subject. Thus, don't striggle to convey the impression that you could say much more than what you are actually saying. Focus on communicating instead.

4. Speeches are different than articles. Do not convey informations such as page numbers, editions, number of the sūtra, etc. No one will be able to take a note and if someone is interested, she will ask you at the end.

5. Don't read. It really makes a difference. It is hard t be boring and to indulge in the above mentioned mistakes once you are not reading.

6. Last, you might discover that questions and discussion are more fun than you might have thought. Be sure that you leave some space for that. It is often the more lively part of a speech and thus the one one remembers better.

I am surely forgetting something important (i.e.: I might not notice some of my most typical mistakes). Which habits of speakers do you dislike in particular?


Amod said...
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Amod Lele said...

Well said, Elisa. I find it sad that all of this needs to be said. There is much more to giving a good presentation than this (rehearsing, for example); what you've said should just be the basic and obvious prerequisites. Unfortunately, the majority of conference presenters don't get even this far, and so I think it's great that you're reminding people of it.

elisa freschi said...

Hi Amod,

you are right, there is much more.

But I was not focusing on speakers (not to speak about professional ones), who will need much more. Rather, I was thinking at colleagues in the humanities who still think at conferences as if they were chances to impress people with as much information as possible (e.g., long lists of Manuscripts, or unpublished works, or Latin names of plants used in Medicine or Rituals…), as if not being understood were tantamount to be deep and learned.

I guess the situation could be much better in North America (where there seems to be a speficic training and speakers learn to be "entertaining" ---thus causing a different sort of problems;-)).

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