Thursday, November 25, 2010

in which i leave my fate to chance (epilogue added).

this has been a strange conference. the talks have mostly been expositions, not the original research of the speakers.

i don't mind it; in fact i quite like it. some topics are old and i haven't thought of them in a while, others are quite new and i am learning new things. it reminds me (and rightly so, as the organizers tell me) of "thursday seminars" of yore. rarely do i hear old friends and colleagues speak for longer than the restriction of 20 minutes at a conference ..

.. in science, i suppose they would call it a journal club.

i had known some weeks in advance that my talk would be part 3 of a 3-part series, but all week i had been fretting and editing, in reaction to what other speakers have discussed. tonight, at 9am i stopped, went downstairs, and started singing karaoke to a live guitar that a friend played until 1am. (there was also a bit of beer.)

it was then that i realised: f-ck. i have 10 pages or so of notes. by standard scales, that 100 minutes of talking: impossible! it also occurred to me that i had many topics, and it shouldn't my decision to choose what is relevant for the audience: rather, the audience should choose.

so i left a 1 euro coin with a colleague to-night; tomorrow i poll the audience: what do you want to hear? if there is no vote, then i flip the coin and decide what to talk about, for 50 minutes!

epilogue. in the end, i ran out of time. in 65 minutes i covered 5 pages; i had forgotten that this crowd loves to ask questions (and besides, my presentation style was sloppy).

i later apologized to some of the participants for going so slowly. they simply blinked, and said that i was going quite fast.

these are my colleagues; imagine, then, how my students are faring ..!

No comments: