March 11th, 2004

krazy koati

Only the echoes of my mind

Sunny morning, monsoon afternoon. Localized flooding. It's my busy day so no chance to look for squirrels anyway.

Presentations today. Lots of them. This is probably a first draft for a note I'm going to send out, but -- everyone giving presentations, some advice:

  1. Aim short. Time moves faster on-stage than you realize. Don't worry about falling under the ``ten minutes'' given for the talk; when's the last time you were upset someone speaking ended early?
  2. Don't be afraid of silence. Have a good idea what the end of your sentence is before you start speaking. A little silence is better than a wending, twisting sentence whose beginning is forgotten and whose end can't be guessed.
  3. You can fit one big, interesting thought in about five minutes, if you include the necessary surrounding material. You can not present six big, interesting thoughts in a ten-minute talk.
  4. </li>
  5. Bring a watch. If you can't bring a watch, look carefully at the person in charge for signals that you are running long, including but not limited to: slashing motions across the neck; holding up the hand in a ``stop traffic'' motion; tapping at a wristwatch or where a wristwatch would go; a stern look and a head shaking no when you say something like ``Now I'd like to talk about...''; and gathering a tranquilizer dart and butterfly net.
  6. You are not transparent. When you write something on the board or put it on an overhead slide get out of the way so the audience can see it. For that matter walk around the entire stage area; it's better for your diction and more interesting for your audience and it gives the people in back an occasional clear line of sight.
  7. When you write something on the board or put up a slide, leave it there. Leave it there long as you possibly can, in fact. If you must remove it, count to thirty before you remove a slide. Too much motion like that leaves it impossible for the audience to understand whatever is presented. And please don't do that thing of covering up the lower three-quarters of a slide. It irritates me more than whiplash slide changes do.
  8. If you want to move your hands to show the progression of something, remember to move your hands from your right to your left. The audience sees you moving left to right. This is a tiny thing, but it adds considerably to your apparent professionalism, and the odd thing about public speaking is faking skill is as good as actually having skill. </p>
  9. Talk a little too loud. It makes you speak slower and be easier to hear in back. As a bonus, your voicebox will probably tire so you won't go on too long. Bring a caramel to chew afterwards.
  10. Do a second and third draft of your outline. Some people can roll out of bed and give a great talk; ordinary mortals need the organization. It's the second draft around you see what the focus should be, and the third draft that you figure how to set it up so you end on the most interesting, delightful point. Public speaking is a dramatic presentation; avoid anticlimax.
  11. Practice dropping your voice several dozen decibels when you notice yourself starting to say ``uhm'' and ``uh''. If the audience doesn't hear it it doesn't exist, and again, you look more professional.

What do you think, sirs?

Trivia: A crescent slice of latex glued onto Robin Williams's right eyelid was used to remind him to keep Popeye's ``squinky'' eye squinked during filming. Source: The Popeye Story, Bridget Terry.

Currently Reading: Journey To The Moon: The History of the Apollo Guidance Computer, Eldon C. Hall.