Mike the Mad Biologist

Blogging has been kind of off recently, between catching up from vacation and putting together a talk for a seminar; hopefully, things will return to normal soon.

On the subject of public speaking, one of my weird talk-related habits is that, after I’ve put together my slides, I’m very nervous about practicing the talk. I don’t mean practicing in front of other people, but practicing when I’m by myself and nobody’s around. Before the first time I run through it, I will procrastinate and get nervous. After that, my jitters are gone. This can’t be stage fright. Maybe early onset stage fright.? Weird. For the record, most people think I’m a good speaker, even though I always feel as if I’m about to start flailing miserably (really).

So what, if any, is your seminar/lecture related weirdness?

Comments

  1. #1 llewelly
    April 12, 2010

    I don’t mean practicing in front of other people, but practicing when I’m by myself and nobody’s around. Before the first time I run through it, I will procrastinate and get nervous. After that, my jitters are gone. This can’t be stage fright

    Deep down inside, you know that THEY are watching you. You can’t see them. You can’t hear them. But you can FEEL them.

  2. #2 JohnV
    April 12, 2010

    I feel like I’m going to start vomiting uncontrollably starting some times as early as 2-3 days before hand (depending on the importance of the speaking engagement) and generally consider death to be a more pleasant alternative.

    And yeah, that got really tedious by the end of my second semester of TAing.

  3. #3 william e emba
    April 12, 2010

    I’ll just say the only thing weird for me regarding public speaking is that there is absolutely nothing weird at all. To me, speaking in front of a small or large crowd is entirely natural. And I do not rehearse. If there are calculations to be shown (which is the norm) I normally work them out ahead of time, just to make sure I have good notation and the like.

    Actually, I did feel slightly disoriented the time I substituted for the professor in a 200 student class my first year as a TA. I was up on a stage, and the lighting was all wrong from my point of view. But within a minute or two, one of my students called out as if the lecture was just regular class, I answered him back, and everything was smooth sailing after that, then and every large class since.

    From the stories I hear, I know I’m a major league oddball.

  4. #4 DJ
    April 12, 2010

    I’m perfectly fine until I make a mistake, which usually happens a couple of minutes in… after that I can’t keep track of where I am in the talk, and I can’t stop sweating.

  5. #5 Mokele
    April 12, 2010

    I fiddle with things, compulsively, if nervous. If I don’t empty my pockets, I’ll spend the entire talk clicking a pen or something similarly distracting.

  6. #6 Janne
    April 12, 2010

    I have a speaking engagement towards the end of summer, in front of a sizeable crowd consisting of my peers and superiors in the field. Four months away, and I’m already feeling queasy.

    I kind of appreciate what months of morning sickness would be like….

  7. #7 eNeMeE
    April 14, 2010

    Fear, and increased speed unless I consciously control it – I’ll start yammering through anything I’ve prepared like a chipmunk on speed.

    I put down “Pause and take a breath” into my notes/speech anytime I have to do one.

  8. #8 Luna_the_cat
    April 14, 2010

    I *bounce*. When the adrenaline kicks in, apparently I bounce around like a little wind-up toy. Dignified, it is not.

  9. #9 Pteryxx
    April 18, 2010

    I have the same problem, where speaking to an empty room is at least as frightening as the actual presentation. Strangely, only prepared speeches have this effect; I can talk spontaneously and answer questions just fine. This had the interesting consequence that I was terrified during my graduate research presentation, but my PhD candidacy exam – being relentlessly questioned and grilled for an hour plus by a tableful of faculty – was rather fun.

  10. #10 Sunflower
    April 18, 2010

    I freak out a little when asking questions of a presenter. Especially in the big lecture settings where they have to pass around a microphone, and I have time to remember that I Am Wasting the Time of Important People. My heart races, I shake, the whole bit.

    Oddly, I don’t get anywhere near that nervous if I’m the one giving the talk.

  11. #11 Lora
    April 19, 2010

    The horrible fear that no matter who has read through my notes and slides, I am missing something big and obvious which anyone in (field outside my field) would know.

    Mostly because I’ve seen a lot of other talks that did exactly that–trivial undergrad-level questions in Field A, but the presenter’s expertise is in Field X and the majority of the audience’s expertise is Field Y. And there’s always that one person whose expertise just happens to be in Field A because of a summer internship they once did, sort of thing, so they just happen to know why you’re totally wrong.

    Once saw a presentation about oxygenation of mammalian cells in a reactor that used completely wrong calculations for diffusion rates, viscosity and shear force. Chemical engineers all gravely nodding and agreeing it was brilliant. Guess no one ever told them that mammalian cells, unlike yeast, don’t have cell walls. I’m sure someday the same will happen to me.