Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Three recent proposals for improving presentations at conferences

Communications of the ACM (Association for Computing Machinery) is one of the most venerable computer science magazines. In the September 2011 issue their editor-in-chief, Moshe Y. Vardi, proposed three ways to improve presentations:

“Conferences should, in my opinion, take active measures to improve presentation quality. A radical proposal would be to require authors to submit not only papers but also video recordings of their talks. The quality of those presentations would be considered in making program decisions. 

Less radical a move is to require authors to send draft presentations before the conference, and receive feedback from their session chairs. 

It should also be relatively easy to augment conference-management systems with feedback pages where conference participants can give speakers anonymous feedback on their presentations. (That would give attendees something constructive to do during poor presentations!)”

You can download the full text of his article, "Are you talking to me?" here (click on PDF).

I like his radical proposal of requiring a video recording. But, when Togrstent Grust approved of that he got comments with the expected objection that this would make it significantly more time consuming to submit a paper. Well, of course. Improved quality isn’t free. Back in March 2010 I blogged about how the quality of presentations at the annual conference of the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons had improved. A possible explanation was requiring submission of a written manuscript. I suspect also requiring a video would have a similar effect.

The image of a conference audience is from Wikimedia Commons.

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