Something Squidgy This Way Comes…

The annual Dictyostelium conference is just around the corner and it is being held in Baltimore, Maryland this year and I am giving a talk on one of the projects I have been working on over the last few months.

The project itself looks at how populations of altruistic individuals can protect themselves from selfish manipulating cheater genotypes. Given the chance, cheaters readily increase in a population gaining the benefits of the behaviour displayed by the altruistic citizens of the group, but without paying the associated cost themselves. Cheeky things.

This all occurs if the individuals move around randomly, but for my project I have given the population structure rather than randomness to see if this has a positive effect on the altruists and therefore the group as a whole.

So all is good there. However, giving a talk is a much different beast to carrying out a project. You must present your work as a story that doesn’t get bogged down in data, concepts and conclusions that are too complex, at least that don’t appear complex when you tell the tale. This is the real challenge – only someone who really understands their stuff (‘knows their onions’, as we say in England) can explain something complex in simple to understand terms.

Your slides have to be clear and you must explain all that is on them to avoid confusion. This means saying what the axes on graphs are and giving time for people to understand why the data are interesting. You have to talk confidently and enthusiastically.

Finally, you MUST KEEP TO THE TIME LIMIT. There is no bigger faux pas. Everyone gets grumpy and stops listening. Above all it is rude; you are encroaching on others’ time slots, and – more importantly – on tea breaks. Go over time, and you have lost the audience.

After several drafts and practises both to myself and to the lab group I reckon to have got it pretty much ready. However, the proof of the pudding, as we all know, is in the eating, so I shall report back when myself and Debbie descend on the conference next week, PowerPoint presentations in hand. Wish us luck!

Hopefully I won’t be standing  in my underwear or quacking like a duck in that conference room like I do in the pesky anxiety dreams…

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