The art of being (the least) understandable when talking
For my time on Earth, as a trained scientist in molecular biology and neuroscience, I have spent my fair time in academia. There I came across, like a modern Indiana Jones, a not-so meticulously hidden gem of truth.
In the spectrum of science specializations (from fundamental life sciences to social sciences), the closer someone stands to the fundamental end, the higher the possibility to deliver an absolutely hideous presentation. An embarrassing number of times although the quality of experimental data passes with flying colors, the speaker proves to be unable to not bore to death their auditors.
Before phlegmatic statements as “we are not marketing people to start selling ourselves with cheap tricks to be likable” are preached, remember that as scientists we are selling our ideas. People, though, are very resistant to new ideas, and rightly so. Thus when you put a good show that proves the elephant in the room, everybody’s mind focuses wonderfully. No new news here as the art of public speaking, or rhetorics, goes way back in the ancient Athens of Pericles where it was, first and foremost, a means to persuade, and was considered a critical aspect of everyone’s - that wasn’t a woman, slave or barbarous - education.
Thus, for your life-long education needs, here’s the extract of my wisdom, freshly squeezed brain juice, in the form of applicable tips, that you can follow and turn into the evangelist of every conversation, regardless of your affiliation with science. So without any further ado, I present to you my full list of how to be (the least) comprehended when talking, shall I?
Initiate explaining something complicated, before you even fully grasp it yourself; this guarantees success in losing the attention of your interlocutors. And as if you didn’t mess up delightfully enough, jump from one subject to another, and treat all of them with the same non-respectful way; smudge different pieces of information on everyone’s face without being apparent to the least. For the subject, you fully own, proceed with dull narratives that nobody is interested in, over analyze them, make a stop to smell the flowers to random fragments of information until your audience forgets the essence of your message.
Especially stress the lopsided and non-congruent aspect of your personality. Talk fast. Start every other sentence with an utterly irritating “ehhh…,” without really needing the time to form a proper sentence. Be non-articulate for an immaculate oral end-product. Internalize the last syllable of each word. Go big with theatricality, or go home.
The golden nugget of success lies in multitasking. To make things even better (or worse), think sharply while talking, but also eat too. Apart from the evident extra gross-factor of eating while discussing, food completely muffles your words as they delve deep into the endless caverns of your body alongside with it.
Have you ever tried talking and moving your hands uncontrollably to the point that, not only they don’t serve the conversation anymore, but, also, provoke confusion and slight nausea. Once, I had someone ask me whether “can you talk if I cut your hands?”. (The answer is no by the way.)
Last but not least here's a personal favourite. At the climax of your story, and only if you are brave enough to put at stake the relationship you have with your interlocutors, make a two seconds happy penguin dance (a.k.a. feet on the ground and torso moving rhythmically to a tune in your head).
The end. Now, don’t you dare go insisting that you lost the memo of the infamous intensive course of exquisite public speaking, alright?
A shorter version of this article was submitted for something big, bigger than words. Wish me luck! Credits | Text & Graphic: Despina Kortesidou