For the past couple of months, it has been very tricky to get Rock Your Talk posts written. This is mostly because I have been experiencing some of the busiest periods of my professional and academic life. Oddly enough, in all this, I have learned a whole lot about creating good talks in very efficient ways. Today’s post is the first in a new mini-series on the subject.
First up, some basic survival tips. Last November, I had a week where I had two talks, a conference and a board meeting. One of the talks took place in Belfast, Northern Ireland and the other in Edinburgh, Scotland. One was addressed to current taught postgraduate and undergraduate students; the other was at a research student conference. One was an hour long; the other a mere twenty minutes.
With only a few days between them, writing two full talks was out of the question. I simply didn’t have the prep time to run enough rehearsals and create that amount of material. So, how did I manage?
Simple. I cheated.
Instead of writing two talks, I reused material.
Sure, that isn’t exactly a world-shifting revelation. Duh! Why write two talks when you can write one?
Where this is tricky is when you have situations like mine where your audiences, talk purposes and even talk lengths are different. In this case, what is needed is a modular talk.
Have you ever played with Lego™ or Duplo™? The same bricks you use to build a castle can instantly be reused to build a boat. You can take apart a model of a spaceman and turn it into a model of a rhino. The same bricks that you use for one purpose can be reused for another.
How about doing that with talks? My long talk was about why language professionals should be getting into research. Oddly enough, one of my examples was a piece of research I did. With a bit of work, I made that section last twenty minutes – exactly the length of the conference talk I was going to do. You can guess the rest.
Interestingly enough, this meant adding a few more rehearsals. I saved time on writing but I needed another full rehearsal and another part rehearsal to get my timings absolutely perfect. I also needed them to make sure that my transitions into and out of my own work were seamless. Noone could know that I had built one talk out of two.
The next time you are working on talks with tight deadlines, give the modular talk trick a try. Next week, I will look at how to know when you have a good module.