Sunday, March 31, 2013

A scientific approach to scientific talks

 It is paradoxical that some scientists approach teaching in a anecdotal way, rather than in a scientific way. I'm paraphrasing Harvard Physics professor Eric Mazur. Garr Reynolds has written a couple of very interesting post about presentation and education in the 21st century, that include a talk from Mr. Mazur.
By a scientific approach to presentation I mean two things. First, the use and application of the theory of the psychology of a presentation: How people think and learn, how to grab and hold people's attention, ans how people listen and see.

5 Things Every Presenter Needs To Know About People from Weinschenk on Vimeo.

The second thing is to measure how efficient a presentation is. It seems natural that if the scientific method is based on measurements, the outcome of a scientific presentation would also be measured. I have never heard or attend a scientific conference where the audience evaluates talks, or give feedback. That was exactly this measurement that made Mr. Mazur aware that he wasn't a good teacher. The measurement issue brings me to reverse engineering: Start with the end in mind! 

 Have you ever asked yourself when starting to prepare a presentation,
  • What do I want from my audience and why are they coming to see me?
  • Who is my audience?  
For the second question Andrew Dlugan from the Six Minutes blog has written several posts about audience analysis.

Although the first question is more personal, your expectations about what people are understanding and taking home can be measured. That collected data would help you improve your presentation. If people are not "getting it", your message might not me clear enough or might just not resonate with the audience. Oh yeah, people filter information.

Conclusion. Let's stop thinking we are good presentation, and start proving it by applying the theory on presentations and measuring their outcomes.

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