Thursday, December 11, 2014

Scientific Presentations and Theatre

In high school, I acted in four different plays. I was cast in a wide variety of role, at different times playing a monkey, a boy with schizophrenia, a 1920s gentleman, and an 80 year old man. Acting out the lives of characters on stage helped me quickly overcome stage fright and developed my stage presence. In Theatre, I learned how to project my voice, speak clearly and emphatically, and use gestures effectively.
When I entered 20.109 this semester, I felt confident in my ability to deliver an oral presentation. I was nonetheless amazed by how greatly 20.109 helped my ability to present scientific and technical work.
In Theatre, the work of the lighting crew is to illuminate different parts of the stage in accordance with the action of the play. Specifically, the lighting is meant to direct the eyes of the audience so they focus on the right details and the right interactions between characters. In 20.109, I learned how to apply this lesson without a lighting crew. Specifically, the use of arrows and small markers on slides greatly helps to direct audience attention to the right details. Similarly, using animations to bring on specific pieces of information at different times helps in clear slide understanding.

Finally, every great play can be broken down into a “three by three”: three sentences of three words each that capture the plot. For example, “boy likes girl”, “girl falls (for) boy,” “boy marries girl.” Having this “three by three” understanding is critical to seeing the backbone of the play. Similarly for oral presentations, having a clear view of one or two central research questions and communicating them is key to audience understanding. 

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