Monday, May 31, 2010

Eight things no conference-goer wants to hear

  1. "I'll skip this part in the interests of time, but in it I discuss this idea . . ."
  2. "How many of you have read Mildly Obscure Author?" (Half the audience raises their hands, because why else would you go to a panel where said author is likely to be discussed?) "That's great--great! He should be better known. Well, Mildly Obscure Author was born on this date in . . ."
  3. "How much time do I have left?" "You're two minutes over." "All right, I'll just skip to my last few pages, then."
  4. "Since there aren't that many of you in the audience, let's move our chairs into a circle and we'll just talk about what our papers would have said if we'd read them." (This can work on occasion, but usually not.)
  5. ". . . and I've brought along a number of her books so that I can share some passages with you . . ."
  6. Twenty minutes into a supposedly twenty-minute paper: With several pages left to go, Presenter looks up from reading the paper and starts extemporizing: "You know, this reminds me of her other work, Y, in which . . ."
  7. Paper read in a quiet, rapid monotone with no emphasis on any one word so that it's hard to grasp the ideas. We call it "reading" a paper, but we actually should call it "performing" the paper. Sometimes people are nervous, and it can't be helped, but practice the paper ahead of time.
  8. "Our time is officially up, but we can take a few questions from the audience . . ."
Most presenters don't do these things, but there are a few. What else don't you want to hear or see at a conference?


AliceAcademic said...

"My paper has changed a bit since I submitted the abstract"...followed by a categorically different paper than advertised.

Anonymous said...

Guilty of that one alas, though only at conferences where a year and all the research separated the two. My personal horror would be: "I've put the text on the handout so you can skim it as I speak..."

undine said...

AliceAcademic, I wish I had a dime for every time I've heard that one!

tenthmedieval, that's different--your research dictated what you gave as a paper, and it's a much better paper for your research.

I left one off the list because I've been guilty of it, too: "I'll just hook up this projector . . . now why am I still getting a blue screen? . . . Do I press FnF5 or FnF7 on this computer to toggle the display?"

Anonymous said...

I like text on handout! And I love skimming the quotations while they speak! And I love handouts that have outlines and also quotations that might be too long to read! And that are on paper so you can take them away with you, as opposed to some PowerPoint that flashes up and then is gone, or is at a link somewhere that you need a computer to get to!

Anonymous said...

Oh yeah. The number of times I've shouted "F5!" from the back of a seminar room ought by now to have got me a reputation.

Undine, thankyou for the excuse, but there is still the problem of people who've come to hear something they won't get.

Anonymous said...

Profacero, I agree that handouts are for text you want to take away, and quotations etc., yes, indeed. Text that is not necessary for the understanding of the paper, or that is read out, fine. I'm thinking of the full page of Augustine in Latin which the speaker just can't summarise because it's too important, sort of thing.

undine said...

profacero, I like some handouts, but I've noticed that some people seem to stop listening and read them (in preparation for refuting the speaker's points).

tenthmedieval, that would be me at the front of the room saying "Thanks!" for your shout of F5.