Careers: Giving talks

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I gave a lot of talks last year.... at Harvard, Columbia, UBC, NYU and Purdue. I think it's mostly due to my book coming out last year.

I usually talk using Apple Keynote. I rarely read my talks from a written paper and speak semi-extemporaneously. I use the Keynote "presenter display" which gives me my speaker's notes for each slide, a preview of the next slide, and a timer. I think Microsoft PowerPoint has a similar feature. You need a PowerBook or Mac Book Pro to make the "presenter display" function because the lower models can only mirror what's on the data projector and can't give you a separate screen.

One of the things that I've realized is that I put too much text on the screen and that the audience is drawn away from the talk into reading. I'm now moving more of the text to my "presenter's notes" and making the main display as brief as possible. I try to avoid any animation or sound effects.

Next-next week, I'll be giving a paper at the American Anthropological Association annual meeting in Washington DC. We only have around 20 minutes for the presentation, which works out to around 10 pages if you read from a paper. I see far too many people trying to stuff a 30-50 page paper into 20 minutes and it fails spectacularly.

I'll be talking about my next book: Crazy in Japan.

Do you have any advice on giving good talks?


I always find talks that have a really good correspondence and coherence between the speaker and the visual material. Generally, the visual material is not a rehashing of the spoken material, but an aid to further understand the spoken (diagrams, photos, dynamic interaction between static photos/diagrams and pointers or highlighters using the shapefile tool in Powerpoint) This grabs people's attention and keeps them absorbed without resorting to gimmicks. Anectdotes always help, especially if you can integrate the sound of the quote in addition to a photo into the powerpoint presentation. Good luck!

hi, i'm a friend of museumfreak and am finally delurking after reading your blog for ages. i think it's great that you speak rather than read. i've rarely heard a good academic paper that was read, and when panelists just speak, it's like a breath of fresh air through a conference. i really don't even understand the convention of reading a paper to an audience.

i've seen a couple of talks lately where the keynote (or powerpoint) presentation is just a visual supplement going on behind the speaker, but not cued to the talk in any specific way. it's just sort of an impressionistic montage-y kind of thing, but it can really work well.

i'm not going to AAA this year but i'm sure you'll do great :)

hey! you stole my title! hehe...

Good luck at the AAA, I wish I was heading over for the circus too!

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This page contains a single entry by Karen Nakamura published on November 15, 2007 9:22 PM.

Doctoral program in disability studies at UIC (and minor at UCLA) was the previous entry in this blog.

Apple: Mac OS X 10.4.11 -- adds support for Microsoft Presenter Mouse 8000 is the next entry in this blog.

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