Quantum Forest logs are written by Luis A. Apiolaza in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Last week I attended to the 13th Australasian Plant Breeding Conference. This conference was somewhat tangential to my interests—which are much closer to tree and animal breeding—but it still had enough appeal to give it a go.
As in many conferences, most of the presentations where appallingly boring and/or badly done. What is with scientists and presentations that manage to turn an interesting topic in unsufferable mumbling? Anyway, there were also a few good presentations and I was thinking what did they have in common? It was not the slideware, or the choice of fonts or even the number of slides. The most important part, I think, it is to have a good story. The story provides enough background to be of interest to anybody, the story is coherent and one can see how the pieces fit with each other.
For example, I have no idea about rice breeding or tomato breeding. Until last week I did not use to care about them; not at all. However, when you start a presentation saying that 3 billion people (yes, half of this planet’s population) get most of their calories from rice you really get my attention. So maybe Swapan Datta’s presentation on golden rice (see the wikipedia article too) was not flawless, but I could feel the sense of urgency and importance of this work. Susan McCouch’s presentation on understanding and using the variability of rice populations was very entertaining. Steve Tanksley had a great story on breeding tomatoes using molecular genetics tools, going back to wild relatives and skipping phenotyping for a few generations1. So there are some scientists that are good speakers and can communicate a good story.
Note to organisers: having a lectern with a fixed microphone and the screen behind the presenter does not help to give good presentations. Some people like to move around, some people want to point things in slides so they turn, but when they speak the microphone does not pick up any sound.
1 This reminded me of a presentation on tomato paste ideotype breeding with molecular markers, by Jeanne Romero-Severson in the Genetics of Radiata pine conference (Rotorua, 1997).