What to do when your mind and fingers wander during a talk

IMG_0332You are sitting in a dark room, your internet-activated computer right in front of you. Facebook beckons. Your email icon is bouncing, but you really want to listen to this talk. But the body is weak. What to do? This speaker is interesting, dynamic, even has some videos, but you have the attention span of a flea. So?

Instead of Facebook or email, go to the speaker’s web page. See if you can download the papers he is basing his talk on. Look at them at the same time as you are listening. This will satisfy your need for multichannel stimulation without taking you off topic. You might even discover something else cool this speaker has done. Put those downloaded talks into a folder for the meeting. This can be better than taking notes.

For example, on the first day we heard such a cool talk on micro-fossils of the first multicellular organisms. I didn’t have any hooks on which to hang the information, so I am likely to forget it. I was madly copying down the names so that I could find the work again. But then I went to Nick Butterfield‘s web page.  I found the papers the talk was based on. I felt better. I could pursue this stuff at my leisure. I turned and listened harder to the talk, not worrying about taking notes any more.

Perhaps the only thing better to keep focus is to tweet the talk.

About Joan E. Strassmann

Evolutionary biologist, studies social behavior in insects & microbes, interested in education, travel, birds, tropics, nature, food; biology professor at Washington University in St. Louis
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