FileTitle: Prose562.html
Category: Humor
Type: Prose
Description: Guidelines For a Terrible Talk
Subject: Guidelines for a terrible talk

>From 'Immunology News', June 1995, Author unknown:

Presenting data at a conference? Preparing a seminar or lecture? Then you
need the Immunology News 'Guidelines for giving a truly terrible talk'
Strict adherence to the following time-tested guidelines will ensure that
both you and your work remain obscure and will guarantee an audience of
minimum size at your next talk.


1. Use lots of slides and viewgraphs. A rule of thumb is one for each 10
seconds of time alotted for your talk. If you don't have enough, borrow the
rest from the previous speaker, or cycle back and forth between slides and

2. Put as much information on each slide and viewgraph as possible. Graphs
with a dozen or so crossing lines, tables with at least 100 entries, and
maps with 20 or 30 units are especially effective; but equations,
particularly if they contain at least 15 terms and 20 variables, are almost
as good. A high density of detailed and marginally relevant data usually
preempts penetrating questions from the audience.

3. Use small print. Anyone who has not had the foresight to either sit in
the front row or bring a set of binoculars is probably not smart enough to
understand your talk anyway.

4. Use figures and tables directly from publications. They will help you
accomplish goals 2 and 3 above and minimize the amount of preparation for
the talk. If you haven't published the work, use illustrations from an old
publication. Only a few people in the audience will notice anyway.

5. Make sure at least one slide and viewgraph is upside down or sideways.
This relieves tension in the room.


1. Don't organize your talk in advance. It is usually best not even to think
about it until your name has been announced by the session chair. Above all,
don't write the talk out, for it may fall into enemy hands.

2. Never, ever, rehearse, even briefly. Talks are best when they when they
are given spontaneously with thoughts organized in a random fashion. Leave
it as an exercise for the listener to assemble your thoughts properly and
make some sense out of what you say.

3. Discuss each slide and viewgraph in complete detail, especially those
parts irrelevant to the main points of your talk. If you suspect that there
is anyone in the audience who is not asleep, return to a previous slide and
discuss it again.

4. Face the projection screen, mumble, and talk as fast as possible,
especially while making important points. An alternate strategy is to speak
very slowly, leave every other sentence uncompleted, and punctuate each
thought with "ahhh," "unhh," or something equally informative.

5. Wave the light pointer around the room, or at least move the beam rapidly
about the slide image in small circles. If this is done properly, it will
make 50% of the people in the front three rows (and those with binoculars) sick.

6. Use up all of your allotted time and at least half, if not all, of the
next speaker's. This avoids foolish and annoying questions and forces the
chairman to cut short the following speaker's time. Remember, the rest of
the speakers don't have anything important to say anyway. If they had, they
would have been assigned times earlier than yours.