Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Recruitment Meeting

This picture is in no way related to the content of this blog post.

UW iGEM had its recruitment meeting today. It was fun times! But I really need work on my presenting abilities; I find I'm really hit-and-miss in my ability to actually convey information while speaking to groups of people. This doesn't come as a surprise, I was always consistantly bad at "verbal communication" as the elementary school report cards would call it, at least by the crazy perfectionist standards of my youth. Nonetheless, I like to avoid being "that guy that gave that talk that nobody understood" whenever possible.

I find it interesting that the fields I'm working in now, both at iGEM and in co-op terms tend to be the interdiscplinary/academic/cutting-edge-no-one-really-knows-what's-going-on fields that are prone to having miserably unintelligible talks. I've sat through a lot of these talks now and they're fairly painful, so painful at times that it's tempting to simply say that the presenter stood no chance and that the topic was simply too complicated to communicate in the available time. Of course, then I go off and watch some TED talks and realize that you can describe pretty much anything worth describing in twenty minutes if you're just that good.

Postscript: I was just about to post this and was looking through what tags to apply, when I realized I have an existing "Painfully Bad Poetry" tag. We were discussing painfully bad iGEM poetry for some reason or other at today's meeting and, well, I have the tag, so...

iGEM (a haiku)
the title counts as a line
oh shoot, out of room

Okay, this next one's the real haiku, not that that previous one wasn't (also, non-iGEM people, iGEM is pronounced "I gem", which is ironic given its silly capitalization which I've probably ranted about before).

lots of little cells
and biology stuff, woot
will sell soul for sleep


  1. This post makes me laugh for so many reasons (including reminding me of the photo you guys picked for the Software slide :P).

    I was going to say that I used to struggle a lot with the verbal communication thing, and that I think I got considerably less inept after hanging out with and talking to Jordan a lot... but maybe that was just improvement in communicating with people who communicate like him (and Andre, etc.)... which isn't necessarily useful in The Real World. :P

    In any case, I feel your unintelligible-talk-induced pain. I find that quite often presenters dive straight into the details, assuming that their audience already cares (and knows a fair amount) about what they have to say and foregoing establishing any sort of context as a result. It's like filling in a form as opposed to writing an essay. For me, the most frustrating is when I understand the things the presenter is saying, but I have no idea what they're talking *about* -- when I can't piece together from the things that they've said what they're actually trying to say.

    That said, you did fine. :P As a *whole* though, yeah, our presentation was pretty patchwork and could've benefited from a real intro, starting off with the motivation behind synbio, the competition, etc. (basically what I tried to sneak in during the questions at the end). Next time we'll make a point of running through everything start to finish beforehand; that always makes these things more obvious.

    Hm.. In the nonexistent time that I have, I'd really like to hold some kind of technical-presentations workshop, focusing on helping people take their super detailed understandings of their own (or someone else's) work and developing accessible, concise talks that tell a coherent story from start to finish. This can go on the nebulous to-do list, next to Andre's Bio4Eng and Eng4Bio courses. :P

    (P.S.: I have a feeling my comment is considerably longer than your post itself. :|)

  2. I've been rethinking my reasons behind the original post and, it's true, the iGEM infosession wasn't all that bad. More than not bad, I have reason to believe that it was actually highly effective, based on the couple guys from my class I've talked to. [It's a little bit frightening. They seem to have been converted to iGEM the way a lot of people convert to evangelical faith. I didn't expect all the soul-stealing jokes to contain so much literal truth. But that's a topic for another post.]

    All that to say that, sure, the infosession was successful. But there are so many things that could be said about iGEM, that it's hard not to feel shortchanged when the recruitment meeting is anything less than life changing. This, obviously, is a silly position and not one which I'm trying to defend. We won't be able to communicate everything possible about iGEM in an infosession. But we could, probably, do a better job of distilling and communicating the really important stuff and I think that's what prompted the post.

    Strangely, I think I may have been drawn to iGEM by how little I understood of it... with the caveat that the parts that I did understand were awesome.

  3. "But there are so many things that could be said about iGEM, that it's hard not to feel shortchanged when the recruitment meeting is anything less than life changing. This, obviously, is a silly position and not one which I'm trying to defend."

    Haha, say what you will; I, on the other hand, plan to keep feeling disappointed when our info sessions don't change lives.

    Since we don't have nearly enough meetings or other stuff to do, it'd probably be a good idea to put together a revised presentation (at least outline central messages, key points, etc.) now*, before this week's attempt fades from our hindsight. :\

    [* now = sometime next week]