Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Hat trick - smalltalk

The Dutch writer Multatuli once started a letter with the apology that he had not had time to write a short letter, so he had written a long letter. His wisdom very much reminds me of EKAW '91,
the organisers of which were of the openminded sort, which meant that a huge number of researchers was invited to speak for three minutes each. 

Speaking about complicated stuff is not easy, it takes a lot of practice, and most people, including myself, struggle with it forever. As a result, most of the workshop was filled with short high-speed presentations of enthusiastic people who tried to cram the usual 30 minutes into the 3 minutes allowed, twisting their tongues, gasping for air. It was not a pleasant sight. I thought I did not too so bad, until the chairman killed me right after the "In conclusion" of my final sentence.

Fortunately, I managed to turn my defeat into a victory, weeks later. I was invited to give a presentation about the same topic, for an audience of exhausted PhD. students, near the end of a pretty dry seminar that had already lasted for too long. As I had not had time to totally revamp my presentation, I had decided to stick to my short three minute version.

I must have been 4 minutes into the allotted time, when I reached my conclusion. The chairman looked up in shock, the audience rewarded me with the big applause I have ever had. 

I was a wise lesson learned. EKAW '91 totally changed my view on scientific presentations. Had I always had the ambition to tell about my research, after that workshop I focussed on the message of RTFP (Read The Fucking Paper),  presenting right enough material to lure people into my paper. Usually, this works well.

A dire consequence of the decision to cram an awful lot of papers into one workshop, is that the conference proceedings resemble a telephone directory, big enough to be returned to the rain forest in its entirety. It took almost a year to get this sorted out.

No comments: