Sunday, March 08, 2015

Technical Presentations

I’ve given a number of talks to various student clubs over the last several months. In particular, I’ve spoken on:

I’ve also been involved in a half-dozen class project presentations during the past year, with more certain to come in the next few academic terms.

While I don’t profess any particular talent in public speaking, I hope that I can improve through practice. And I find that I enjoy it fairly well, which is a little surprising since I’m not known to be especially outgoing and I often find writing tasks stressful. So why is that?

An obvious difference between public speaking and published writing is the immediacy of feedback. With a live audience, I can adapt the presentation based on reactions, so perhaps there’s less abstract worry about how it will be received. Absent recording, the ephemerality of a spoken presentation helps a lot with those worries, too.

There might also be lower standards for, say, originality and precision in the spoken context. I enjoyed teaching my fellow students about those concepts, but on the Internet I wouldn’t have as much to add to the larger discussion. That said, speaking is remarkably effective at transferring ideas, for a variety of reasons, while getting people to read documents is challenging.

So, perhaps the audience and topic make a bigger difference than the medium. But I think I’ve come a reasonably long way from my daunting first public speaking class three years ago.