Sunday, February 28, 2010

A few questions about presenting

I was fortunate enough to speak with Dr. Jean-luc Doumont over dinner Friday night following a talk he gave on effective presentations at CREOL. The man is a truly gifted speaker, and if you are at all interested in improving your technical (or otherwise) communication skills, I highly recommend that you read his blog or look at his book, though I have not read it. I have been following his blog for a short while now and have to admit that it is one of the reasons I decided to start writing my own. More precisely, I am trying to practice the methods he espouses through my own writing.

What I found most interesting from our conversation is his belief that his principled approach to presenting is universal, i.e. it applies to many people in many occupations and settings. Given that the culture and content underlying a business or academic field can be drastically different from another, I find it very intriguing that the same skill set can be effectively employed in different settings.

For example, a presentation on new data at a conference on astrophysics will surely contain very little information that is pertinent to topics discussed at a meeting of marketing executives, yet his methods for communicating the presenter's message can successfully be applied in both situations.

This may not seem too surprising since communication is a basic function of society. It does however bring a few questions to my mind:
  1. Is there more than one structured approach to accurately conveying information to an audience? If so, does it relate to Dr. Doumont's methods, and to what degree does it overlap with them? 
  2. Is there a better way to do it, or has Dr. Doumont described the best possible way to communicate a message to a large number of people. 
  3. Is his approach only applicable to writing and speaking, or does it apply to multimedia and mass marketing as well?

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Hello, world!

Or is it "Hello world!"? Or even, "hello world!"? Is the exclamation mark too much?

I hope that this is the first of many posts in my very first blog. What shall I write about? Honestly, I'm not too sure right now, but let's see what comes of this post...

I tend to be a hyperactive thinker. I notice a problem or oddity and turn it over in my head, much like I am untangling some knot. First I test this strand. Is it loose? No. Let me examine the other side. Ah, here's an end. I may give up for a time and unleash my subconscious so that I can return with a new approach. I may even lose interest with the issue entirely.

The key to solving a problem, as any good scientist knows, is to keep a careful record of observations, failed attempts, and insights into possible solutions. I hope for this blog to serve as my lab notebook to the less technical side of a scientific life. Think of it as a collection of my conclusions to the questions raised by the issues I encounter in my life as a scientist.

And for whom am I writing? Myself, primarily. With these keystrokes I begin sorting and shuffling what I have learned (or learnt?) during my years as a curious individual in an even more curious world.