Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Listening vs. reading

Easing back into the whole blogging thing with some observations about a talk I attended today, part of an on-campus lecture series whose participants have more or less free rein as to topic, as long as the talk takes about an hour. I was a bit wary going in, given that the abstract for the presentation was written in a very writerly style. By which I mean, I had to look it over a couple of times before I really assimilated it, and even then I realized that it didn't actually mention what the talk would be about, only whom it was addressed to.

As it turned out, the speaker read a chapter of an upcoming book project of his, in the same writerly prose style. I started out trying to take notes and couldn't even quite figure out what to take notes on - his discussion was fluid and slippery and I couldn't get enough of a handle on it to figure out what the argument was, exactly. Then I let my mind wander and started making to-do lists and such on my yellow notepad.

Even though I'm a musician, I'm very much a visual and haptic learner (haptic = learning by doing/action), rather than an auditory one. I kept thinking, "If only he would slow down and repeat his sentences once or twice, so I could visualize them better." I like drawing diagrams and arrows and circles to connect different parts of a paper. So hearing this man read a chapter aloud did nothing for me - too bad, too, since he was small and round and had a friendly face and pleasant speaking demeanor, and you could tell he was quite smart.

I'm currently finishing up a presentation for the conference I'll be traveling to this Thursday, in Tulsa, OK (!). While my written prose isn't normally half as dense as this speaker's, this was still a reminder that taking it slow isn't a bad idea if the goal is to avoid audience doodling.

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