Wednesday, June 27, 2012

conference, day 2: words, words, words.

[written last night]

i complain a lot about having long, complete paragraphs on talk slides.  to explain, it was simply part of how i learned how to give talks:
though they don't perform arithmetic nearly as much as the general public believes, many mathematicians still find it easier to parse an equation than to read through a whole paragraph of sentences.

that's the whole point of mathematical notation:
it's meant to be a powerful shorthand for quantitative ideas.

so if you can formulate something as an equation or inequality or formula, then usually it's just fine to write it that way, include some indication of what the hypotheses are, and then explain verbally what it means. [1] it's what i prefer, at any rate.
on the other hand, maybe i'm not being fair.  i happen to be a native english speaker, so my level of effort is minimal.  when talking at international conferences, people occasionally tell me that i should slow down my talking pace [2].

the fact is that for most people in the world, english is a less-than-perfect second language, and to speak well requires deliberate care for the right words to indicate the right meaning.
put another way, say that you're talking to an international audience:

in that case, why wouldn't you write up completely, readable english on your slides, in the event that the audience doesn't understand you (or rather, your accent) ..?
i don't have to like it, but i understand why it happens.

[1] if everything had to be on a slide, then what's the point of having a human speaker in the room?

[2] that actually happened earlier today: one guy in the audience asked me to go slower.  at the time i tried, but i don't think it worked out as he wanted.

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