Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Don't be like Caroline Kennedy ...

... you know?
In a 30-minute session with The News on Saturday, Kennedy punctuated her answers with "you know" more than 200 times. "Um" was fairly constant, too.
For scientists who must regularly present their science in a public setting, be it seminars, symposiums, or other invited presentations ... these verbal tics can definitely overshadow their work. That's definitely not a good thing. One piece of advice is to go slow. Allow a pause between your thoughts. When changing a slide, step back, collect your thoughts and then and only then, speak. Even a pause for a second can give you that precious time needed for your brain to catch up with your mouth and prevent you from a verbal tic. Saying things like "you know", "ah", "uh", or "umm" can definitely distract the audience. I imagine everyone who reads this blog and has attended seminars has sat in attendance and counted verbal tics for at least one presenter. It's awful!

So, before your next seminar, sit down with a co-worker and give your talk. Have them listen for those verbal tics and then work on eliminating them. Your talk will improve and it'll pay off in the long run as well.

Hopefully your slides don't suck either ... but that's a talk for another time.

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