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Giving Talks: Thirteen Tips from a Conference Nihilist

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There is a famous Seinfeld joke about public speaking. It's based on an old opinion poll result that reported that people fear public speaking more than death. Seinfeld used this to make the wry observation that the next time you are at a funeral you should reflect on the fact that the person giving the eulogy would rather be in the coffin.Suffice to say, I don't feel that way about public speaking. I have many social anxieties but speaking in front of a large (or small) audience is not one of them.1 That's not to say I'm any good at it, of course. But I have at least done a lot of it and grown accustomed to its rhythms and its demands. Furthermore, I have learned from the mistakes that I have made over the years so that even if I amn't particularly good at it, I am at least better than I used to be.This is all by way of justifying what you are about to read. I get asked quite often for advice on giving talks (by students) and I am frustrated that I have still not got around to formalising my thoughts on the matter. What follows is my first attempt to do so. If you are in a hurry and are just interested in reading my 'tips' on how to give a talk, then you can find them summarised in the poster that accompanies the text. If you have more time, and are willing to tolerate the occasional diversion, then I hope you will read the full thing because I'm not just going to explain the methods I follow when giving talks, I'm also going to reflect on things I love and hate about the process, give some rants about academic conferences, consider the larger purpose and philosophy behind the practice of giving talks.As always, what follows is my own take on things. I am not claiming that the things I find useful when giving talks will be useful to others, or that I have undertaken a detailed survey of the evidence concerning what works and doesn't. I'm just distilling the lessons I have learned from my own experiences. This means, inevitably, that my reflections are geared. . .

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News source: Philosophical Disquisitions

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