In a conversation this morning, a colleague and I convinced ourselves that we are a lot like aging rock stars. Perhaps there are some differences, but there is at least one compelling similarity of which we are aware.
We have both been giving a lot of invited talks on our research this year, and in most cases the inviting department or session organizer wants to hear about research we have already done/published. They want to hear our old songs, but we wanna play our new material. Is anyone convinced by this awesome analogy yet?
I suppose I could give the same old talk over and over again, but I would go out of my mind with boredom. I would rather lose my mind in a more interesting way. Furthermore, an oft-repeated talk would become stale and I would be reduced to mumbling through it and sighing a lot, and maybe occasionally flicking my laser pointer at an image.
What my aging rock star/professor friends and I typically do of course is keep some of the old stuff and add some new material to it. The challenge of this approach in terms of giving a talk is that you have to make the entire talk flow -- you can't just abruptly end the 'old' part of the talk and then say "OK, now I'm going to talk about something that interests me."
Also, if you add new things, you have to cut some of the old things -- not cutting anything and therefore giving a longer performance might work for rock stars, but here is where we professors part ways with our musical colleagues. Giving a longer talk is not a good option for speakers, however fascinating the research. Talking extremely fast to cover extra material in the allotted time probably isn't a good idea either.
In some cases, deleting old images creates a problem because this information might be important for understanding the context of the new work. In that case, I make one or two new images that synthesize the information in deleted images. Then I can cover the old information quickly but clearly and move on to my new research/songs.
And that's when I get to pondering just how much work it is to update a talk. I am cranky about it right now because I am deep into making new images and figuring out what I can toss and what new material I can fit in. Once the new-and-improved talk is done, I am pretty sure I will be glad that I took the time to do all this.
Once it is done, I will also feel good about the fact that I have new results to present, and some things to say about the research I want to do in the near future. There is always something new to do, and therefore there is always something new to talk about. I think someone should write a song about it (but never sing it the same way twice).
6 months ago