Why do otherwise brilliant academics give such soporific talks?

Paul Edwards form the University of Michigan writes –

‘You’ve seen it a hundred times. The speaker approaches the head of the room and sits down at the table. (You can’t see him/her through the heads in front of you.) S/he begins to read from a paper, speaking in a soft monotone. (You can hardly hear. Soon you’re nodding off.) Sentences are long, complex, and filled with jargon. The speaker emphasizes complicated details. (You rapidly lose the thread of the talk.) With five minutes left in the session, the speaker suddenly looks at his/her watch. S/he announces — in apparent surprise — that s/he’ll have to omit the most important points because time is running out. S/he shuffles papers, becoming flustered and confused. (So do you , if you’re still awake.) S/he drones on. Fifteen minutes after the scheduled end of the talk, the host reminds the speaker to finish for the third time. The speaker trails off inconclusively and asks for questions. (Thin, polite applause finally rouses you from dreamland.)’

He asks ‘Why do otherwise brilliant people give such soporific talks?’ and argues that ‘it’s part of academic culture — especially in the humanities and qualitative social sciences. It’s embedded in our language: we say we’re going to give a paper.  As a euphemism for a talk, that’s an oxymoron. Presentations are not journal articles. They’re a completely different medium of communication, and they require a different set of skills. Professors often fail to recognize this. Even more often, they fail to teach it to their graduate students.’

Read the full article with lots if useful tips http://pne.people.si.umich.edu/PDF/howtotalk.pdf

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