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Zero Gravity

How to Give a Better Physics Talk

Listed below, in no particular order, are the most important rules for giving a good talk at a professional physics meeting:
  1. Carefully check each viewgraph for spelly misteaks.
  3. Absolutely no alcohol during the talk (this applies to the speaker only).
  4. No singing or dancing... most of the time.
  5. Answer all questions, even if you have to make up the answer.
  6. Do not raise or lower your voice suddenly. This could disturb those resting in the audience.
  7. Make use of the accuracy/clarity duality. It is very easy to be both inaccurate and unclear at the same time.
  8. No salacious physics jokes about two physicists and a religious person.
  9. Make sure the viewgraphs are ordered correctly.
  10. Prior to the talk, practice the art of ducking any flying vegetables.
  11. Don't let boo's or hisses cause you to stray from your prepared talk.
  12. Hand gestures to emphasize particular points can be used extensively, provided they do not insult any particular ethnic group.
  13. Under no circumstances should you delete any overheads from your talk. Simply speak more rapidly and quickly flash all of the viewgraphs. [The world record for an APS meeting is 56 viewgraphs, 12 with substantial equations, given in only 10 minutes, at a spoken rate of 430 words per minute.]
  14. Be sure to include this phrase on each overhead: "This talk could not possibly be supported by the U.S. Government, Industry, or any Educational Institution."
  15. There is no need for a concluding overhead if you think you have said everything.
  16. In the end, there are no rules.
From "Learning from a Negative Example," talk by Brian Schwartz, Brooklyn College, at the APS March Meeting in Los Angeles.

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Editor: Barrett H. Ripin