Posts Tagged ‘seminars’

Better-looking LaTeX/Beamer slides

7 Oct 2013

I like to use LaTeX to make slides for talks, largely because I prefer to write code (rather than use a mouse and menus) for control of things like colors and figure placement.

Most people that use LaTeX to make slides seem to use Beamer, but the resulting slides are usually a bit busy, like this:

Typical beamer slide

I admire Till Tantau for creating Beamer; it was a great idea and it’s been widely adopted. But I don’t like talk outlines at all; I certainly don’t want to see one on every page.

After several days work, I’ve finally figured out how to create LaTeX/Beamer-based slides that look like what I want:

Open Access talk, title page

In this post, I’ll explain what I did.


The Hopkins SPH logo, part 3: Karl’s revenge

6 Mar 2013

I’m finally back to the story of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health logo.

I wrote Part 1 in mid-November and Part 2 a week later. I said that Part 3 was “coming soon,” but I’ve been a bit shy about revealing this. You’ll see why.


The Hopkins SPH logo, part 2

21 Nov 2012

Last week, I wrote about the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health logo. I now present part 2 of the story.

Hopkins SPH had done some fancy renovations of part of the building, including an important new feature, the “Wall of Wonder“: a big display composed of nine LCD screens in the atrium of the building, to display various PR type stuff. (“Wall of Wonder” (WOW) is the official name! Consider the Wall of Wonder policies, inspired by the events I detail below.) Here’s a photo:


Practicing talks

22 Jun 2012

Clay Johnson, the author of The Information Diet, recently wrote about how to prepare to give a presentation.

I was shocked.

First, he says

When I started writing my book, I knew that authors generally make more money from speaking than they do from royalties, so I wanted my talks on the Information Diet to be great.

I probably should have stopped there, since we clearly have completely different goals. He wrote a book and is giving talks in order to make money?

He goes on to suggest a course of preparation that involves an enormous amount of practice.

I guess stand-up comics do that, but me: I’ll flip through my slides and think through the tricky bits, but mostly I rely on experience and innate ability.

In a talk I gave about giving talks, I mentioned that others have said to do 10 practice runs for every presentation. But for me, my practice run is the time I gave the talk to a different group. I can’t stand the sound of my voice, and I’m certainly not going to watch myself on video, not even this short one.

Mr. Johnson suggests having a test audience, in part to try out one’s jokes. The intended humor in my talks is almost entirely spontaneous; if I have idea for a joke in advance, I will generally abandon it, as if I think about it too much it will just seem stupid.

The main reason I don’t practice talks is that I don’t want to waste time; it would take a lot of practice to get just a bit of improvement, and I could spend that time writing or programming or looking at data.

Also, I think if I give a talk too much, by practicing or otherwise, I’ll be less excited and interested in the material. Without practice, I’m not so polished, but I’m more enthusiastic.

ENAR 2012

18 Apr 2012

The annual ENAR meeting (eastern North America portion of International Biometric Society) was a few weeks ago in Washington, DC. It was great to see old friends, and I learned a number of things outside of the sessions, but mostly I was annoyed by the meeting.

Ways to annoy me

  • Distorted aspect ratios: I’m often seeing LCD projectors set up in wide format, stretching a presentation that was developed in the old 4:3 style. Is it not obvious that preserving the aspect ratio is more important than filling the screen?
    • This is especially bad with photographs:


    • It also makes fonts ugly:


  • Outlines for talks (especially 15 min talks): If you have only 15 min, don’t waste any time telling us what you’re going to be telling us; just tell us. And even if you’ve got 45 min, I find the “Background, Methods, Simulations, Application, Discussion” outline totally useless, and anything more complicated than that seldom makes sense until the speaker is part way through the talk. Why try to explain terminology before you’ve gotten to the background section?
  • “I’m running out of time so I’m going to skip the real data analysis and go quickly through some asymptotic results.” Someone actually said that.
  • Opening night poster session (and for three hours!): It actually seemed to be working, but I sure wouldn’t want to be standing next to a poster from 8-11pm. I would prefer:
    • posters available to look at throughout the meeting
    • multiple poster sessions (so presenters have some opportunity to talk to each other)
    • nothing happening at the time of a poster session
  • Dull talks by famous people: (I’m not talking about you, fine reader, but the other famous people.) Biology meetings will have a few invited speakers but the bulk of the talks will be chosen based on submitted abstracts. Statistics meetings seem more often arranged to have people submit proposals for full sessions, with a slate of pre-selected speakers, and it is those sessions that are reviewed. That seems the perfect design if you want crappy talks by famous people. Perhaps I’m annoyed only because I’m a non-famous person who can give a good talk.


27 Oct 2011

A cute and useful menu bar application for Macs: Caffeine, available in the App store.

If you click the little coffee cup in your menu bar (so that it’s full), it will prevent your Mac from displaying its screen saver or dimming its screen. This is especially useful when you’re giving a talk.


19 Oct 2011

I went to a great talk today by David Goldstein, which I might write about further later since he said many of things of considerable interest. But I had to quickly point to an interesting paper he mentioned: Parachute use to prevent death and major trauma related to gravitational challenge: systematic review of randomised controlled trials. The main conclusion:

We think that everyone might benefit if the most radical protagonists of evidence based medicine organised and participated in a double blind, randomised, placebo controlled, crossover trial of the parachute.

Make sure to read the statement regarding the authors’ contributions.

Animal research

12 Oct 2011

Last night, I was an “expert” on a panel at a public discussion on animal research. I was really nervous, but I ended up not saying much and learning quite a lot.


Terry on communication

3 Oct 2011

Relevant to my recent comments on seminars, Terry Speed’s latest commentary in the IMS Bulletin focuses on communication (talks and papers).

He says: read others’ work (which I would expand to say, pay attention) and practice.

Seminars, bad and good

29 Sep 2011

Rafael Irizarry recently proposed that the standard 50 min seminar be reduced to 25 min, with the extra time devoted to discussion. I commented there but should have just written at greater length here. I’ll do so now.

Bad seminars

The overriding characteristic of a bad seminar is a lack of empathy for the audience.

  • Skipping the motivation and jumping into a pile of theory.
  • Covering way too much material too quickly.
  • Talking about something that is boring and/or trivial.
  • Mucking about in details, particularly regarding simulations results.
  • Going over time, even by a minute.

Self-censorship is important. If you don’t have something new and interesting to say, talk about something old and interesting or don’t talk.