Sunday, January 6, 2008

How Not to End a Presentation (and a plug for SICB)

". . .Thank you to all of these funding agencies, and I'd be happy to take any questions."

I just finished up my time at the SICB (Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology) annual meeting in San Antonio, Texas. SICB is a great meeting for those paleo-types who are interested in understanding extinct life as living organisms. It's a shame that more of the SVP and GSA attendees don't take advantage of the venue, because it's a great chance to interact with neontologists who are asking the exact same research questions. The student funding options are fantastic, too (I only had to pay $75 for four nights in the meeting hotel, in exchange for two hours of turning lights on and off in a conference room).

At any rate, just a recommendation for anyone doing a talk at a professional meeting or giving a department seminar: Never, ever, ever end your talk with "And I'd be happy to take any questions. . ." Not that you shouldn't solicit questions, but it creates an awkward moment of silence. People aren't sure whether to applaud (hopefully they'll want to do so) or to raise their hands (hopefully with fawning praise and some intelligent but answerable questions). Furthermore, it wrests control away from the session moderator, who is really the person to decide if there is time for questions. If I had a nickle for every time I've heard a moderator say, "Actually, you ran 10 minutes into the next time slot, so we don't have any time for questions," I sure as heck wouldn't be pursuing a Ph.D. in paleo.

So, end your talks with a simple "Thank you." The session chair (or host faculty person, for a departmental seminar) is usually quite capable of opening the floor for questions - it's his or her job, after all!


Ewan said...

Nice to see that you have a blog Andy! Check out mine sometime if you want to...


Andy said...

Thanks for the compliment - and nice blog, likewise!