Friday, 20 April 2012

Naked science

Posted by Bronia Arnott

Fear of public speaking is a common anxiety and when I mention it to others a frequent response is “Just imagine the members of the audience naked”. Clearly the people dispensing this advice have never given a presentation in their life, as surely imagining a room full of naked people is only going to make you laugh! And while I am all for including humour in my presentations, being doubled up with laughter imagining my colleague in their birthday suit isn’t quite what I was aiming for.

Female nude, by William H Johnson
I do use humour in my presentations, as talking about dual process theories can be a bit dry. But it is a delicate balance. After all I want to ensure that the audience is laughing with me not at me. And I want the audience to remember the take home message of my research, not some knock, knock joke.

I have been told that I need to maintain the attention of my audience throughout the presentation, to ensure that they don’t end up taking an afternoon nap during the crucial but ever so slightly dull section on the statistical analyses. There are many ways to do this according to the lastest advice; I try to relate things to real life examples and change the tone of my voice (although I haven’t perfected the ‘you in the back row pay attention’ intonation perfected by those in the teaching profession).

I have been very tempted to do a Prezi presentation – they promise to make your presentations zoom. Unfortunately, they have a bit of a reputation for causing motion sickness in your audience. And if there is one thing that puts me off giving a talk is a member of the audience being sick in the aisle.

I am a very visual person though, so I also use quite a lot of pictures in my presentations. And searching google images is a great distraction from actually writing the talk! Plus the advice from those in the know about public speaking is that lots of text on your PowerPoint slides means that the audience read what is on the projector screen and don’t listen to what you have to say. Although sometimes I do wonder if that scenario would be better for us both. After all if the audience are looking at me, they might be imagining me naked…

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