2. I did, however, get a nice reply back from the deputy director of the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, which had the Japanese pilot display in which I found a mistake. Not only was he appreciative of my explanation and the correction, but he also asked if I could be of assistance helping them translate the writing on several hinomaru Japanese battle flags they have in the collection. Pretty cool opportunity if that works out.
3. I won't say anything further about the destination of my trip, the BCS National Championship game, other than that I think I know how Takeda Katsuyori felt as he fled Nagashino: confident he would win, only to be obliterated and have to run for his life. Driving home through Alabama with a big Notre Dame sticker on my car was a bit humbling.
4. I'll try to have a review up of Olof G. Lidin's Tanegashima: The Arrival of Europe in Japan in the next few days. Just finished it, and very interesting.
|A "Tanegashima" arquebus from Tanegashima|
5. After that, I'm in full conference prep mode, as the SMH conference in March is just around the corner. Presenters have to have their papers in by the end of this month, so I need to do some refining. Also, my paper I'm presenting at the Chinese Military History mini-conference held concurrently is...well, let's just say in going back to look at it, I progressed a long way from that paper to the next, so I have to revamp it for the conference.
6. On the subject of conference presentations, I read this commentary on academic presentations (via Skulking In Holes and Corners), which I found amusing but somewhat snarky. Snarky isn't a bad thing, but I think the snark focuses more on the format of presentation rather than the real issue, which is bad presentation skills. Reading a script vs. using powerpoint slides vs. giving a "talk"at a conference seems to be a major point of contention within academic circles. I asked a question regarding source citation in a conference presentation on an academic mailing list, and the replies seemed to devolve into "if you use powerpoint you'll just bore people to death!" or other griping about formats unrelated to my actual question. I can see problems and benefits to each presentation method, depending on how well or poorly you use them.
The boiled down point of the article is that it's boring to sit there and listen to someone read monotonously from a prepared script. And presented how it is in the article, I agree. However, the author and most of the comments seem to wish that more presenters would give "talks" about their research. This is fine, except that anyone who has sat through an academic conference has been in that one panel where Dr. Expert-and-I-know-it goes on and on rambling about his wonderful research with no discernible organization to his thoughts and completely ignoring time constraints and pretty much everyone else. These are exactly the people you WANT to have a set of prepared, TIMED remarks.
Look, if a researcher isn't passionate about his or her research, and couldn't talk for an hour about it, then they shouldn't be doing it. But most panels at conferences (at least those I've been to) have a limit of 15-20 min per paper. I love talking about Nagashino (as our podcast listeners can attest), but other people want to talk about their papers, or have time to ask questions. The best way *for me* to limit myself to the time alloted is to type out a paper as a script and read through it. Otherwise, my ADHD brain would insert way too many sidetracks and anecdotes and I'd only be 1/3 of the way to my point by the time my segment ended.
On the OTHER hand, no, you should not just simply read monotonously from a paper. Yes, as the article says, we can all read as well, and if you're just going to read aloud, you might as well just hand us copies and save us the time. That's why you A. practice aloud (and tape yourself), so you can not only fit in the allotted time but also hear what you sound like, and adjust accordingly, B. use VISUALS, like powerpoint or pictures or something, to give the audience something to anchor their thoughts to while they listen.
Of course, mention powerpoint, and immediately the response is "OHHH NOOO....DEATH BY POWERPOINT...."
Puh-leeze. I've sat through fifteen years of military powerpoint briefings in a myriad of countries, multiple languages, on every subject from personal hygiene and the dangers of drinking and driving to high-level multi-star operational snoozefests. Someone whose experience with PPT is slides for a college class or an academic presentation cannot possibly fathom the horrors (and certainly the heroes--PPT can be good in the right hands) I have seen clicked through, slide by painful, coma-inducing slide. If your biggest complaint is that someone reads their bullets to you...well, okay, that is actually very infuriating. Still, equally infuriating is the PowerPoint Ranger who has 47 "builds" per slide that animate needlessly, so that a 3-slide presentation takes 90 minutes to maneuver through.
As with anything--scripts, powerpoint, handouts, arquebuses at Nagashino--it's not the tools that matter, it's how they are employed. I use a script, so that I can time the presentation and be confident that I am going to keep on track and finish within my allotted time. I also use powerpoint as a backdrop, to provide visuals which anchor my words to images for the audience, and as a way to show more information (usually in visual, not bullet, form) that I simply cannot cram in verbally to a 20 minute presentation. Beyond that, I give out handouts, which include a basic powerpoint outline, a selected bibliography, blown up diagrams of some of my more detailed graphics so that people can look at it from their seats (and keep looking after I've blown past that particular slide), and contact information. Maybe some people are bored with it, but I think I do a good enough job using them to complement each other that if you're bored, it must be that you're not interested in the subject matter. Most of the feedback I've gotten at the two conferences I've presented at was enthusiastically positive, and it at least SEEMED like more than polite "oh, that was nice, thank you" chatter.
I don't know--perhaps I'm delusional. But to me, it doesn't matter if you use notes, don't use notes, use or don't use powerpoint, read or "talk". Be clear, project, and be engaged, and you'll be engaging. If you don't look like you've put time into your presentation (by rehearsing, by having good visuals if you use visuals, etc.) then why should the audience pay attention? I'd be on my cellphone checking football scores too. That's where the article (and comments) seem to miss the point.