Gym noise

I hate running on treadmills. In general, I hate running, in spite of the fact that I do so fairly frequently. Treadmills have been great for working on form, so I try to make time each week to spend running in place.

While I don’t like running, I do like catching up on talks I miss at conferences. While I am incredibly good at making time to run, I am incredibly bad at making time to watch talks. A few months ago, I realized I could use my fancy pocket computer to enable me to combine these two activities (running on treadmills and watching talks) to a completely benign, neutral 20-40 minutes of activity.

I’m going to link some talks I’ve watched recently (at the bottom), but also add a little commentary about how this has changed my presentations.

1. I explain slides more.

Video usually doesn’t carry slides well–especially when you’re running while trying to look at them. I try to say a bit more about the content on the slide itself. I use slides as cue for what I’m supposed to say, and something to provide some visual stimulation (I don’t think I’m a very visually engaging speaker) to help people focus.

Now, I usually read slides–a practice I used to think was bad. This a) helps anyone in the room who may have a vision problem and b) provides more utility to someone listening remotely.

I always read long quotes–even if I think it’s tedious or unnecessary for in-person attendance. I try to not just analyze or provide context for graphs, but also some sort of description of what is being depicted in the graph itself.

2. I make more boring slides.

At first, Asheesh Laroia and Deb Nicholson taught me to make slides with nice images on them. It’s good personality. I wanted to have a more serious angle to my talks, so I switched to a more academic style, with mostly bullet points and graphs. I’ve since eschewed bullet points and, under the advisement of Ned Batchelder, stick to a goal of one to two lines of text per slide (barring longer quotes).

3. I repeat questions.

I’m not always good about this. Questions might be understandable in the room, but not always on the recording.

4. I remind people where we are in the presentation.

I began to explicitly divide my presentations into sections, worrying less about smooth narrative transition than I used to. When listening at the gym, I can zone out and lose track of where I am. Scrolling back in a video (without pausing the run) is really hard.

5. I repeat points.

I try to tie things together more and do so with greater frequency. This is in the spirit of helping people when they zone out and can’t easily rewind.

6. I occasionally address the remote audience.

Especially with things being streamed. I don’t just address the room (but I do do that). I make it explicit that I know (or at least hope) people will be watching it later. As part of this, not only do I list my contact info at the beginning and end, but I do it verbally as well.

7. I thank people for their time.

I always try to do this anyway. I really appreciate people listening to what I have to say when they’re not at an event. It makes you feel special to see that people want to learn about what you care about even if they’re not already at the conference and looking for something to do.

Talks to run to

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