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Giving a scientific oral presentation: a pleasure or an ordeal?

November 10 2013 , Written by Wing-Fai Thi

This is my first blog and I suppose that I should expose my motivations. This blog will essentially focus on my personal account of a scientist’s daily life in the fascinating field of Astronomy and Astrophysics. I will avoid as much as possible actual scientific discussions since many excellent blogs abound. Now and then other subjects may pop-up.

I was hesitating about the language that I should use for this blog. My mother tongues are Chinese and French. English is my third language but is the lingua franca of science.

So the first subject will be on communicating science. As a graduate student I was really naïve into thinking that my scientific results would speak for themselves. In reality, your science and therefore your reputation as a scientist depend on how well you can convey your findings and convince your fellow scientists. The main medium of scientific communication is in the form of scientific articles. Other means are posters and oral presentations at conferences.

Enthralling speakers make their science fascinating. I keep watching the talks at TED http://www.ted.com

Giving an oral presentation is like being on stage for a one-man show. The presentation should be well prepared, maybe scripted, and well rehearsed. The performance in front of an audience, which is not always willing to give you all their attention, entails its own stress. Outgoing people may feel euphoric to talk about their work but for a shy person, an oral presentation may be an ordeal. Shyness should not be an obstacle to one’s carrier and fortunately there are ways to build up self-confidence. I chose to join a martial art dojo, other may want to join an amateur theatre company.

Building up self-confidence is a personal choice but this turns out to be worthwhile in every aspect of my life.

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