Mark Twain Gives Advice on Conference Presentations

Optional, and just for fun: Mark Twain on giving a paper. Happy Halloween!

Donna M. Campbell

These excerpts from the new Autobiography of Mark Twain address “a new and devilish invention–the thing called an Authors’ Reading”  rather than a conference presentation, but Twain has some great advice about what not to do. These are from pages 383-384 in the print version, but you can read it online as well.

Twain had been asked to speak and foresaw disaster: “The introducer would be ignorant, windy, eloquent, and willing to hear himself talk.  With nine introductions to make, added to his own opening speech–well, I could not go on with these harrowing calculations.”

1. It takes a long time to create a readable short paper.

“My reading was ten minutes long.  When I had selected it originally, it was twelve minutes long, and it had taken me a good hour to find ways of reducing it by two minutes without damaging it.”

2. Time your presentation. Even…

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