Like most scientists, I have had to strain to understand some speakers at conferences. When a speaker fails to hold me, my mind drifts to thoughts about how he should be speaking. Here are some of those thoughts—from a frustrated listener rather than a professor of rhetoric.

Mobilizing Your Ideas

Careful preparation is so obvious a necessity that it should not need mentioning, yet it does. Although spontaneous speech is less stilted than over-rehearsed speech, poor preparation may result in incoherence.

On cards a quarter the area of this page, write ideas for your talk. Rearrange, rewrite often. Your new discovery or invention is what we want to hear about. Concentrate on that and mention methods only briefly. When all seems ready, go through the notes with a broad red crayon and brutally slash out non-essentials. Number the cards. On card one, list the items to take with you: clock,...

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