Tuesday, February 2, 2016

An example of a good talk

A few days ago, I collected some general recommendations for preparing good slides. Shortly before I started to look into these ideas, I saw an example of a, in my point of view, very good talk, which incorporated many of the points I mentioned. Since examples are usually very helpful in grasping some new idea, I decided to explain why I think that this talk was so well done.

The talk I am referring to was given by Jędrzej Świeżewski from the University of Warsaw in the International Loop Quantum Gravity Seminar. Here are direct links to the slides and audio.

  • The talk starts with an outline including some comments on why this work is interesting. This is important to keep the audience interested from the very beginning and should be contrasted with introductions of the type “we are going to prove some technical theorems about some topic that (only) the speaker is interested in”. Not everything about the motivation is given away right at the beginning, but something more follows on page 6 when some necessary background is introduced. This provides a nice break from technical results for the audience and raises their level of interest again in the middle of the talk. Still, the answer to the question on page 6 is then postponed to the end, keeping the audience again interested and trying to anticipate the result, which again increases focus. 
  • The colouring scheme is easy on the eyes. There are no bright colours and no white background, yet the contrast is (at least most of the time) good enough to easily read everything. This is also true for the dark yellow used on some slides. Some exceptions to this are the boxes on slide 8 which are used to distinguish between certain parts of the Dirac matrix. While those colours can be clearly distinguished on my laptop screen, this was hardly possible on the projector during the actual talk. The same is true for the light brown arrow on slide 9, which was not visible on the projector. Thus, while the choice of colours was in general very good, there were minor problems which could have been avoided when testing the slides on a projector. 
  • The structure of the different slides is rather individual and does not follow some strict pattern. Things on the same slide always belong together and no attempt was made to press two different topics on the same slide.
  • Unnecessary formulas have been suppressed and the notation has been simplified in places where details don’t matter, e.g. on slide 3. While the Poisson bracket marked as “nontrivial” has been computed with a quite interesting result, this was not necessary at this point for understanding the main logic of the talk and thus was rightfully neglected. 
  • Text on the slides is mostly reduced to a minimum, which is a good thing. A few more words could have been cut on page 6, where the three blocks of text in the middle tempt the audience to stop listening and start reading. 
  • The moderate pace of the speaker also strongly helps the audience in following the talk. Especially since this was a telephone seminar, speaking clearly is of great importance. 
  • Since the computation and properties of the Dirac bracket is the main part of this talk, the formulas on pages 7-10 are warranted. The details here are again kept to the minimum necessary to follow and understand the computation. 
  • Finally, the speaker was on time, in fact a little short of the available 60 minutes. This is however not a problem at all, since the important things were mentioned and prolonging the talk further would not have been appropriate. 

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