An Open Letter: To the Awesome Speaker

Sep 28 2010 Published by under Uncategorized

Dear Awesome Speaker,

Verily, you are indeed awesome. You're a really Big Wig in this field, and that's really something you should be proud of. You seem like a pretty decent guy. And your data is REALLY SWEET. It's really freakin' cool. I'm not gonna lie.


There's showing off your cool data, and then there's being SO in love with your cool data and the sound of your own voice detailing your many experiments of win that you run TWENTY MINUTES over your allotted seminar time. TWENTY MINUTES while Sci was standing uncomfortably in the back both because you are such a hot shot that the talk was standing room only, and because I'm a busy bee of a post-doc with STUFF TO DO. Like the experiment I need to do. Which needed to start TWENTY MINUTES AGO, and which would have started on time were you not so incredibly in love with showing off your work to us more minor beings.

I did indeed enjoy your data. I did not want to walk out. But when we were already 10 minutes over and you said "yeah, I should skip this because we're running out of time, but I'll just go over it quickly", accompanied by "I always end up running out of time, I've got like half my slides left", did you not perceive the audible sigh and shift and shuffle that came in response? Did you not perceive that people started stealing out of the room? Did you maybe think "well, perhaps I should skip this next experiment"? NO. NO YOU DID NOT. Instead, you said "here, let's look at this 5 minute video! NOW, let's look at it AGAIN! NOW, let's look at it re-analyzed!" And then proceeded to prattle on.

You were prattling on a great subject. It's true. You're a great speaker, very captivating. But that does NOT justify going 20 minutes over your allotted time while you throw in funny anecdotes about serendipity and how humble you are about having done all of your wonderful experiments of awesome and win. Ain't nobody that special when Sci's got experiments to run. So do us all a favor. When you KNOW you run on, and you KNOW you always go over, SHORTEN YOUR EFFING TALK. Because my opinion of you and your ego gets worse with every second my experiments aren't getting run.

Much love and kisses, and your data are indeed REALLY pretty,

9 responses so far

  • andre3 says:

    The best signal to a speaker that they are taking too long is to leave. It's awkward the first couple of times you do it, because you think it's rude, but in reality to have to compare that to the rudeness of the speaker who thinks his or her entire audience's 20 minutes apiece is less important than his or her pet project.

    Just leave and don't get so worked up over it. Then make a mental note that you never want to work for or with this guy or gal.

  • Jason Dick says:

    Sadly, this sort of run-over isn't all that often accompanied by such a nice talk...this sort of run-over shows a lack of care and consideration in preparing the talk that most often translates to a very poor one indeed, even if the underlying science might otherwise be interesting.

  • NanU says:

    How true!
    just remember this advice for your own talks.
    and maybe give yourself a bigger margin after a seminar, since even if the speaker does stop on time, you just might want to stick around and talk to her afterward, and it would be a shame to pass up one-off opportunities like that.

    • scicurious says:

      Some of Sci's experiments are 6 hours long, so if she wants to be home by 7...well. I could have done a 10 min margin, but otherwise I agree with CPP, hang drawn, and quartered.

  • proflikesubstance says:

    I hate this. No one is paying attention anymore once you start to run over your time, just zip it and be done because other people have these things called schedules.

  • Speakers who go over--regardless of whether it is because the audience asked a thousand stupid fucken questions during the talk--deserve to burn in the hottest fucken hell for infinity forever. If you got too many stupid questions to finish, it means your talk sucked shit to begin with. My talks are always structured in modules so that I can eliminate module(s) to stay on time without the audience even knowing it.

    And any speaker who goes "I'll just run through this part real quick", should be drawn and quartered by horses that are not quite strong enough to finish the deed, so that they suffer miserably for hours and hours of intense pain before finally being torn asunder.

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  • Mokele says:

    This is why, the first chance I get to chair a session at a conference, I'm going to dispense with the pithy metaphor and actually bring a giant hook, which I will use.

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