Wednesday, June 13, 2007

From memorable to maddening

Of the seven or eight papers I've heard so far today, one was memorable, three were quite good, and the rest...well, you judge:

There was the guy who admitted that he had spent most of the previous evening trying to cut down his 24-page paper to make it fit within the 15-minute time span allotted. He finally gave up the effort and decided to just wing it, which resulted in 15 minutes of unfocused rambling.

Then there was the guy who spent so much time talking about the topics he didn't have time to cover that he didn't have time to cover the topics he did have time to cover.

And who can forget the young woman who held a spiral notebook up to her face and squinted at the dense, hand-written text of her paper?

Someone needs to teach these people some basic rules of conference papers:

1. Type it up.

2. Cut it down.

3. Deliver it clearly.

4. Don't apologize.

That's what makes the good papers good. The memorable papers add a dash of humor, a vivid image, or some interesting language. Hoping for one of the memorable ones--well, that's what makes the bad papers bearable.

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