All right, let’s take on a really important topic today. I noticed people on my Twitter feed yesterday talking about reading theirs during seminars, which led to comments about falling asleep during them (and waking up). So let’s hear them: your worst moments (yours or those you’ve witnessed) about people losing consciousness or focus during scientific talks. I’ve written before about awful talks, and those will certainly overlap, since the real stinkers tend to wipe out susceptible members of the audience. And I’ve also written about my (growing) intolerance for less-than-interesting talks in general, and maybe it would go better for me if I could just sack out in situ, but I never really do.
But I’ve certainly been around people who can! One guy in grad school tended to zonk out within the first ten minutes of most talks – impressive speed, and it made me wonder if he was getting enough sleep at home. Another grad school seminar comes to mind as well. It was a pretty deadly one – I don’t recall the exact topic, except I found it violently uninteresting and delivered at roughly dictation speed. The professor who’d invited this speaker in to bore us all into a coma threw the floor open to questions at the end, only to be met with a terrible gaping silence, one that looked fit to stretch as long as he was willing to let it. So he hurriedly moved to the “Well I have a question” mode, and said “You know, when you were talking about X, it reminded me of a problem that one of my own students is facing on his project. Do you have any comment on that, Paul?” Silence. Total silence. “Paul?” Silence. Someone hurriedly shook Paul himself awake, and came the bleary response “Uh. . .what was the question again?”
So let’s hear it: have you have been the person suddenly awakened and expected to come up with something coherent – you know, as if you’d been listening the whole time? Or has it been even worse?