Please stop reading your conference papers.

26 04 2010

Over the weekend, I provoked a friendly disagreement with the illustrious and extremely entertaining Historiann over whether it was OK to read your conference papers like a script at profession forums. Yes, I know everyone does it – in history – but I’ve seen more than enough economists and business professors go off the cuff (as is the norm in those disciplines) that I think that we should do it too. After all, would you ever be satisfied teaching that way?

Feel free to chime in here or there for your chosen side, but as I think my comments there weren’t quite enough to get my whole point across I thought I’d add a little more here on this subject. First off, I am working on the assumption that someone talking to you is more entertaining than someone reading at you. Indeed, if there is a non-academic in the room, I strongly suspect they will be automatically put off by your reading whether your paper is any good or not. Unless you record books on tape, your reading isn’t going to add much to the presentation and a few ad-libbed asides aren’t enough to make you look engaged and spontaneous. Talking off a script is alienating by definition. That’s why actors memorize their lines.

Consider this comparison: UD had a very good post yesterday which included a reference to “Death by PowerPoint,” a favorite topic of hers as we regular readers know. Explain to me the difference between reading from slides and reading from pieces of paper and I’ll take it under consideration. What I do know is that at least in a death by PowerPoint situation, the students presumably have pretty pictures to ponder. What are you giving your colleagues to look at it if you read your conference paper other than the front part of your head?



4 responses

26 04 2010
Doubling down on the no reading thing. « More or Less Bunk

[…] by others, and Dr. Crazy at Reassigned Time has certainly done that in part due to what I wrote about reading papers at conferences earlier today. Given Dr. Crazy’s choices, I pick: “b.) “I know! Isn’t it […]

4 10 2010
Pictures for the sake of pictures. « More or Less Bunk

[…] mean this as a pro- or anti- PowerPoint screed. It all goes back to my earlier call for people to stop reading their conference papers. I’m not anti-PowerPoint, I’m pro-entertainment and pro-thinking. All the best […]

14 12 2011
“To the casual observer, an academic conference must appear to be one of the strangest of modern rituals.” « More or Less Bunk

[…] have already come out against reading conference papers here and here. To me, the sort of bemused detachment present in reason #74 really drives home how stupid […]

6 05 2013
The “Down With MOOCs” World Tour, 2013-14. | More or Less Bunk

[…] a longstanding principle, I promise I will not read my speech/conference paper like a script. I do, however, need […]

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