austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

You can check out any time you like

As the hour of my talk approached I had a familiar feeling, the growing belief that I have nothing nontrivial to say. I agreed to give the talk when I was starting research in a field I thought would be a novel variant on some old work; since then, I found this variant doesn't make much difference. My fear that I was being trivial was encouraged when I noticed in the (small -- perhaps ten-person) audience an honest-to-goodness ... well, not a superstar, but someone who published a really big, fundamental, much-cited result in my little field.

Several of the other audience were also people who'd published important or noteworthy stuff, but I knew them -- my advisor was friends with them, and I was acquainted with them through that link -- so they weren't so intimidating. And of course my advisor was there; while a grad student I built up a phobia of saying something stupid in front of him -- I certainly said my share of stupid things -- and I'm not over it yet.

I managed to live up to my own snotty list of Rules to Follow in Giving Presentations. While I stumbled over a few points my general policy of skipping every detail (I showed no equations, for example) and summarizing the interesting results and explanations, and showing nice colorful slides, was rather well-received. The superstar didn't ask any questions but did nod happily at several points; the session organizer complimented the cool results, and my advisor liked my very brief summary of why the results turned out like they did. So I got out safe and sound and very glad to be alive.

And the fellow from Colorado stopped by, I think just to see my talk. Based on his abstract we've got reasonably compatible research interests. Still don't have time to look at responses, though; I'm sorry and I will read every one this weekend. I promise.

Trivia: The bronze canopy behind the papal altar at Saint Peter's cathedral in Rome was created by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, 1598-1680. Source: The Vatican Collections: The Papacy and Art, Ellen Shultz.

Currently Reading: The Thurb Revolution, Alexei Panshin.


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