Thursday, September 20, 2012

When your talk time is cut in half

Several fellow speakers found out a couple weeks before the conference that our time had been shortened from 1 hour to 30 minutes. Some have been able to adjust admirably. Some, not so well. Here are a few lessons learned from both groups. First, what not to do:
  • Fail to rewrite your talk and decide to speak twice as twice as fast. 
  • Skip over examples and definitions to save time.
  • When asked a question, say "No, that's not what I'm saying!" while pointing your forefinger at the questioner.
  • Ignore the moderator when he/she tells your that your time is up, so you can get to the interesting results
  • Stop abruptly at the end of a slide because the moderator tells you your time is up.
  • Get frazzled by the lack of time, and fail attribute results properly (either to yourself or to other parts of the literature).
  • Answer a question during your talk as "That's not pertinent to the main subject of my talk." If you are short on time, non-pertinent details should not appear.
Talks I've heard go successfully in this timing change share some of the following characteristics:
  • Overview talks that don't focus on the details of a project, but give a general overview of a research program, along with key results.
  • Lots of pictures/graphs of key information.
  • Presentations stopped at the end of an interesting result, even if there were more results originally planned in the talk.

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