Monday, June 20, 2011

Giving talks and practice

I am sure this sounds really stupid now, but before I switched to an academic position, I never really thought about how much better I would be at speaking in public after doing a semester's worth of lectures to 150+ three times a week. While teaching a class is definitely not the same thing as giving a talk, I find that I am much more at ease in front of crowds (large and otherwise) after spending so much time in front of a lecture hall. There is a confidence in the familiarity of being in front of a crowd that I never had before.

That's not to say that I don't get nervous before giving a talk--I definitely do. My PhD advisor said he still gets nervous even after a lifetime in science. I find that some nerves give my talks an energy and an edge that I like. But I don't feel paralyzed or intimidated in the same way that I used to, especially at high stakes talks. It would have taken me many years to get to this point if I had stayed at National Lab, and that is yet another originally unanticipated benefit to switching to the TT.


Principle Investigator said...

Oh, I completely agree! I work at a SLAC and only give lectures to around 20 students at most, but just the experience of getting up there and putting on a show every day for two years made a huge difference in my comfort level at my most recent international meeting. I was still nervous, but happy and excited to be "teaching" the audience about my research.

GMP said...

Absolutely. After you deliver lectures to varying size audiences several times a week for several years, with slides but generally no other preparation (who has time to practice every lecture?) you get much more comfortable simply being exposed, and especially thinking on your feet and weaving the story while exposed. It's an awesome benefit of teaching.