How to listen to a seminar or talks in general

Number 1, keep the mouth tightly shut. Many speakers are not mentally ready to take critical questions. Until one becomes the seminar organizer or something who is obliged to ask questions, there is really no point of embarrassing both himself and the speaker but opening the jar. Number 2, take judicious notes: one must not abuse note-taking, for it numbs the mind. But it is also necessary to write down new ideas and organize it real time to make it readable in the future. Number 3, again don’t ask questions. Many well established academics hate audience asking educational questions simply because they have the right to rebuff even intelligent questions. There are numerous examples in this regard. Well, I guess one cannot expect others to have the same sense of openness to communications as ourselves. Number 4, be accurate in thinking all the time. Number 5, do not nod when not understanding an explanation, but instead say sorry I am slow right now, let me take a moment to think. Below I will describe some important techniques that can be employed to keep the mouth shut. Indeed, as we’ll see, keeping it shut is much more difficult than one could possibly imagine.

I. Always remember that it is already a lot to absorb the stuff one actually takes out of a talk, without asking for clarification. And always keep in mind that asking questions do not earn research bonus. Many of the great researchers don’t ask questions, even though they can be really eloquent in their own talks. It is better to be nonconfrontary.

II. Keep tally of how many consecutive talks in which one has not asked a single question, and take pride in that number. Instead spend time thinking more. At least one has a better chance of understanding the material in a talk than by reading. So be content.


About aquazorcarson

math PhD at Stanford, studying probability
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