[M.M.X.I.V. 96] Content overload

It’s a common malady that I notice in any sort of lecture format, whether that be a colloquium, seminar, or college class.  I am even guilty of this myself!

In general, I feel that lectures are packed too full of content, and are not always conducive to people’s attention spans.

Yesterday, I attended the Chicago Area Student SIAM (Society of Industrial and Applied Mathematicians) Conference, which was a one-day conference with talks in applied math.  Most of the talks focused on optimization problems or complex networks, which I usually found engaging.  However, as the day wore on, my attention span waned, since I am not used to being in academic contexts on Saturdays.

Several of the speakers had many more slides than they had time for, and it leads me to a few questions as to why:

  • Did they belabor an unimportant point earlier in the talk and run out of time for perhaps-more-important things later?
  • Did they not rehearse the timing of their talk prior to giving it?
  • Were the hastily-skipped-over slides intended for another audience or talk?  Or were they unimportant?
  • Was the talk hampered by a mid-session question?

Although I have not given many research talks, I do give “talks” in the sense of mini-lectures for my undergrads when I act as a teaching assistant.  I am guilty of not rehearsing talks prior to giving them, and therefore somewhat have to wing it on the timing.  This often leads to me belaboring relatively unimportant points, or rushing through material if people do ask questions throughout.

In some sense, I feel that the speaker’s panic to get through material gets propagated into the audience that might be lost, bored, or confused.  Most of the time, if I am not fully engaged in a colloquium talk, I can only last 20-30 minutes before my attention starts to wander.

Knowing your audience is important, but knowing yourself is important as well.  It is a matter of preparation, and I have slowly learnt how to prepare better.  Of course, my future-myopia still tends to drag me down.


Today is the ninety-sixth day of M.M.X.I.V.  That makes thirteen weeks and five days.


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