I wrote this last night because at this precise moment in time I’m in front of forty to fifty of my colleagues reporting on my progress. I’ve never been a big fan of public speaking but in science this goes with the territory.
I’ve prepared my thirty minute presentation and have been through it multiple times since. But no matter how well you think you’ve prepared or progressed over the last few weeks, when you put it all together, you notice the gaps and the mistakes and the things that could be done just a little bit better.
Because of this I generally prepare talks to avoid obvious gaps and to deflect any possible questions after the presentation. This is an art in itself and requires, for me at least, a lot of practise because when I get up there, the nerves generally make me forget everything and I just start blurting. And blurting is never tactical or smart.
In life I generally try to avoid confrontation, I don’t consider myself an overly confident or self assured kinda guy. Of course the purpose of these talks is not to grill the speaker but to understand more about what everyone is doing and to keep up to date with the departments progress. However, questions are inevitable and sometimes people have to defend. This is the bit I don’t like.
But what doesn’t kill you can only make you stronger and when I consider how nervous I am now compared to a few years ago when I started in this game, it’s getting a lot better. I always remember a bet I had with a friend during my PhD. We went to lots of talks and every talk ends with the usual:
Thanks for your attention and if anyone has any questions I’d be happy to answer them.
Of course what follows are highly intelligent, probing and thought provoking queries on the data that has just been presented. Most of the time, boring. We always wanted to ask:
I really enjoyed your presentation but I would really like to know, do you prefer fig rolls or chocolate digestives?
We never had the guts to go through with it, but who knows, it might happen tomorrow!
Ps. The answer for anyone wanting to know is chocolate digestives. Dark chocolate obviously. They win every time.