Eyes down... for an empty house

June 6 2018

Image of Eyes down... for an empty house

Picture: via You Tube

A quick plea to all my fellow art historians; when giving a paper at a conference, it's generally not a good idea to read out a prepared text. Not only does it inhibit your normal way of communicating - because unless you're an actor, reading dulls the voice - it also makes it very difficult get across your message. That's because when we listen to someone speaking, we're far less able to absorb the kinds of details and nuance we might pick up when we're reading. I know standing up in front of a room full of people can be daunting, and for many of us (I've even in the past done it myself) having the security of a script helps us get through the ordeal. But it's actually far easier just to talk generally about a few broad points. And your audience will thank you for it. 

Update - with perfect timing, the Arts Society is offering a fully funded five day course on how to give a good lecture:

When: Sunday 12th August – Thursday 16th August 2018

What’s covered: confident​ speaking training, presentation skills training including information on software and sourcing and using illustrative images, learning how to talk about art, accommodation, all meals, transport to all venues, ongoing opportunities to lecture with The Arts Society following completion of the course. Participants will just be asked to cover their travel costs to and from Birmingham.

Sign up here!

Update II - if you do feel the need to read from a script, a reader offers this sound advice:

Academics are terrified of losing their place in a text, so layout skills are essential.

One v useful trick is to print up the talk with a paragraph ending at the close of each sentence, and learn to look up every time. Then look back down at the start of next line.

Most academic sentences are anyway too long and complex for oral delivery, so another trick is divide them into parts, breaking at each conjunction, and looking up again.

Third: read text aloud – really loud – to oneself and listen for moments when the prose stumbles.

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