For starters, the monotonous drone is like a series of dull thudding noises where you can only catch occasional words that spark a few of your remnant synapses…”chemogenetic” …..maybe ”CRISPR”….. On each of these inflection points, you try to focus, thinking now THIS part HAS to be interesting. But no matter how much you try to bring yourself back, it is hopeless. You discreetly reach for the phone but there is really nothing new (no one is stupid enough to be awake at this hour). Unfortunately, it’s too late to get up and leave now (you had to take a middle seat on one of the front rows, didn’t you!). So you sit and you endure. This is beyond boring; this is like death itself.
After thirty minutes of this torture (still at least thirty minutes left!) you start fantasizing about doing something ridiculous, just to see what would happen. Like – and again, these are merely hypothetical scenarios – violently kicking the chair in front of you (what’s with this dude’s ponytail?) or thinking about just getting up and screaming “FIRE” and start running around the room like a madman. You look around and there are a lot of glazed eyes glued to the podium. It’s impossible to say how they feel but trust me their pain is just as great as yours’. You are in the company of a pretty common entity: The good scientist who gives bad talks.
Now to be fair – just to get the fairness thing out of the way – there can be many reasons why you feel that the good scientist is an awful speaker. It might be you. I mean you did drink those three beers last night, and you were never really a morning person. The stuff might be just going over your head, you are just a kid. Also let’s be kind here, it might be a personality thing. Some people just speak in monotones, you know. However, when you see the same speaker again and again at meetings (ironically, scientists giving talks are almost never chosen for their speaking ability), and the reaction induced is exactly the same; one has to conclude that it’s not you. It’s them.
So what is the singular most important reason that good scientists give bad talks? All will be revealed in Part 2. Feel free to post your guesses on Twitter (or the comments section).