So I went to this teeny tiny interdisciplinary graduate conference at my university today. I attended it several years ago, I think during its first year, and I thought it would have grown since then, so I submitted a paper. The conference was still small (too small for a university the size of mine), but it made for a pleasant enough day.
How interdisciplinary was the conference? My quirky humanities talk was bookended by a genetic analysis of skeletal remains and a talk on the intrinsic risk factors contributing to North American mammals' extinction. Fun!
I didn't talk about my dissertation research, except tangentially, but rather indulged in a talk about a recent rift in the model horse collecting community. I know, it sounds really provincial, but I had 'em rolling in the aisles compared to the other participants. (Why do people who have never seen me talk think at first that it's not OK to laugh? It's like I have to warm up the room for every friggin' talk.)
Anyway, what was nice about the conference was we had evaluation sheets to fill out for each speaker, so at the end of the day I received a nice little stack of evaluations of my talk. I received some good feedback, but waaaaay too many people were fixated on my slide presentation. I believe PowerPoint-style slides should be used only for visuals, not text. Years ago I remember reading the results of a study that showed that textual slide presentations actually cause people to retain less information than they would from a talk without the slides. Obviously the other folks in the room disagreed with me because they felt (a) I didn't have enough slides, (b) I didn't have enough text on the slides, and (c) I needed a "standard" first slide that stated my institution's name. (Hello? We're all from the same institution--they're lucky I had a title slide.)
Seriously, I believe PowerPoint presentations are the overhead projector of the 1990s. It's time to move beyond them, unless you have some nifty photos or graphs to show. I don't need to see your talk outline, dude. (I once saw a professor give a talk on how to better engage students--and he read it to us from a PowerPoint presentation. Argh! Irony. . .hurts.)
Here's the funny thing. What did I write on all of their evaluations? Less text on slides. Talk directly to us.
My favorite comment from my evaluations? "I loved the humor. I was sure before your talk that I wouldn't like it, but I loved it." Teehee. I <3 my crazy model horse stuff. Must finish dissertation so I can play with it in earnest.