Saturday, February 07, 2009

Public speaking

Last Monday I had to give a talk at an amateur astronomer club and well it went relatively well. I say relatively well, because my one hour talk lasted for 1h45, and well I didn’t go through all of the stuff I had prepared for this presentation. I was supposed to talk at length about the Canadian telescope and the science we do there. In fact the talk was intitled: “Canadian Telescopes: Unsong heros of astronomy” and I barely got to talk about any modern telescope (the last one I talk about was the cloud covered pic of Mont Megantic which is hardly the most recent one). Part of the reason for this “failure” lays squarely with me, I underestimated the amount of talking I would do at each telescope and the amounts of question I would receive, another part of it lies with the club that held a 45 minutes talk about february night sky, right before my presentation and the last part comes from a question that really surprised me. Someone asked me to sell to the group the idea of the Quebec-Canadian governement building a Megantic-like telescope today within the current economic crisit.

I really liked that question, even tho I had absolutly nothing prepared to answer something of that kind (according to the asker I succeed quite well). I like the question because it forced me to think on my feet, to convince someone that my science was worth investing in even when the economy isn’t that strong and to answer something I’m prepared for on the fly. In short, that might be a good preparation for my thesis defense!

Nonetheless, that not what I brought up the sujet, I brought it up to speak about public speaking. Now, those of you that know me know that I am very verbose and that I can speak quite a lot. Given the evidence of my speaking too much above I assume that even those that don’t know me very well understand. You might think that my next sentence would something along the line: but I’m scared of public speaking or some such. You would be wrong, I love public speaking, it must be part of my attention whore side and no I’ve never been that scare of speaking in public. Still, I’ve heard and tried many of the “tricks” to help yourselve speak in front of an audience and frankly I don’t think any of them really works. Imagining people naked, yeah that sure is going to get me too feel better, I’m giving a talk in front of bunch of naked people. Finding someone that looks sympatic to me in the audience and looking at him while I speak, great only one person came to hear me. Looking above the audience to the wall behind, great no one came to hear me talk. None of that works, at least for me, I prefer to talk to the audience. I’m talking to everyone there as if it was a single person, when I answer question I start my answer toward the person asking the question but I go on to talk to everyone, using the logic that if someone asked the question most of the group probably was wondering the same thing.

Well that my idea about it, I’m certainly not an expert on public speaking and it probably doesn’t work for every kind of public presentation there is. I’m pretty sure that an act can’t work well with that technic or any kind of performace that doesn’t require feedback from the public but I don’t know. So what do you think?

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