Boring Speakers Talk For Longer

As I prepare for my talk – “Tips for Improving Your Genealogical Lecturing Skills” to be given at the Professional Management Conference of the Association of Professional Genealogists held over the next three days in Kansas City, a letter caught my attention. The piece of correspondence is in the 27 September 2018 issue of Nature (Volume 561. Page 464) and was brought to my attention in John Reid’s excellent blog Anglo-Celtic Connections (citing my sources 😊)

The correspondent, Robert M. Ewers, of Imperial College, London wanted to address an observation that at conferences boring talks often feel interminable but are they actually longer. I am going to quote from his letter, used with the author’s permission.

“I investigated this idea at a meeting where speakers were given 12-minute slots. I sat in on 50 talks for which I recorded the start and end time. I decided whether the talk was boring after 4 minutes, long before it became apparent whether the speaker would run overtime. The 34 interesting talks lasted, on average, a punctual 11 minutes and 42 seconds. The 16 boring ones dragged on for 13 minutes and 12 seconds (thereby wasting a statistically significant 1.5 min; …) For every 70 seconds that a speaker droned on, the odds that their talk had been boring doubled. For the audience this is exciting news. Boring talks that seem interminable actually do go on for longer.”

I will be encouraging all my fellow speakers to not be boring and will be providing tips on how to improve their speaking skills. Heaven forbid that we would fall into this category, of being boring. But only the audience will be able to answer that question.

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