Last week, I was having dinner (by chance) with some of the world experts in my field. We discussed conference-styles and one of them suggested that a talk should have three parts:
- one understandable by all
- one understandable by the experts only
- one understandable by the speaker alone
If you have been following this blog or know me a bit, you might imagine my next question: Why the third part? I can understand that it is nice to offer something to both experts and non-experts, but what is the purpose of keeping one third beyond the level of understandability? The answer was: A talk is also a chance to self-promote yourself. You need to show that you are an expert, even more than the experts who are listening to you.
Today, another colleague, sent me back an article for a collection I am editing with the following question (more or less): Why do you want me to make things easier? Should not the readership try harder?
I strongly disagree with the talk-recipee as I am inclined to see my mission as linked to the essay to communicate the little bit I managed to understand to as many interested people as possible (“interested” is needed: I am ready to teach neither Sanskrit nor philosophy in primary school to kids who see school as a waste of time). I enjoy sharing and do not enjoy monologues. Furthermore, our field is small enough and I do not think we can afford to select only the best among us —unless we decide to speak only to a few chosen ones.
What do you think? Are you ecumenical or selective in your talks and articles?
By the way, in case you have read my articles or listened to a talk by me, would you say I am selective or ecumenical? I noticed that people may very well be misled regarding their communicative skills.