December 26, 2011

P4: Watching other people not give presentations

Remembering I’m supposed to be watching people is certainly harder outside of an academic environment :D. Mostly one-on-one, simple checks like “is X clueless/tired/bored/interested/disliking tangents?”

I can remember people are present (and pay attention to them!!) by being more spontaneous and less overprepared. However, this requires that I have an excellent knowledge of what I’m presenting, so it’s probably worth overpreparing anyway and then deviating from the script. This is still something to work on – “what I’m going to be talking about next” seems a much more important topic than “what are my audience thinking”, and I suppose it’s similar when I’m in the audience – “what is he saying right now” is less important than “I wonder if the converse of that theorem five minutes ago is true” or “I wonder if this can be applied to ” and then I go on a tangent by myself with the knowledge that I can just rush copying down the notes and look at them later, when I should really be tabling the problem, trying to grok the lecture material at the time, and doing the problem later, oh well!

On being calm: I find the most important thing is to really know the material, preferably to a much greater degree than you’re presenting. Ideally you’ll be presenting to an audience that knows nothing, so you don’t have to give any focus to the mistakes you make, and can just move on without disrupting the flow. See it as an opportunity to share your interests instead of a social ritual by which people will judge you (whether that is true or not)!

I suppose all I’m looking for here is confidence that I know the material better than the audience does – preferably a lot better.

- 3 comments by 2 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. Nick

    Here at the maths institute of the University of Leiden, everyone has to give a presentation in their second year, but you can choose your own subject, so for most students the biggest problem is actually choosing what to leave out of the presentation to keep it short enough!

    I like your idea of seeing it as an opportunity to share your interests. If you’ve clearly prepared well,
    then no-one minds the odd slip or question you can’t answer.

    28 Dec 2011, 09:19

  2. Beverley Veasey-Walshe

    Hello Christopher,

    Not sure who made the comment above – does it mean anything to you? Do you want me to flag it up as intrusive? Although it is good to see that they validate my workshop on the ‘knowing what to leave out’ front!

    Back to your blog…
    Having observed you in action, I would say that unless your energy is a health risk (racing heart etc) you have little to worry about – your enthusiasm is infectious and draws your audience in, this is a skill and a gift most people are trying to acquire. However, in terms of being aware of your audience – the issue here is ensuring that your audience is with you, and understanding comprehending you. It maybe a way off but there may come a time when you are talking to people who are not as clued up as you are – but if they are important people (funding, jobs, politicians – who’s to say?) you need to develop this ability to be aware while still delivering. How to do it – pause – use your eyes – smile and possibly comment ‘I’m just checking you’re all with me’ if appropriate, you have the chutzpah. Just find a way of giving the audience time to keep up.

    A pleasure reading your blog. And where is the University if Leiden?

    09 Jan 2012, 15:27

  3. Christopher Midgley

    Nick is perfectly fine to make comments – he has been doing so for a while, and well! If I minded receiving comments, I wouldn’t make all the entries world-viewable :). I have to validate all comments made by people with non-warwick emails, anyway.

    According to Wikipedia, Leiden University is in Leiden, Netherlands.

    09 Jan 2012, 19:03

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