Reading Versus Speaking

It is important to note that the conference paper is designed to be spoken and listened to; it is not a written paper. There may be a written version for the conference delegates who want one, and for other enquirers, but in the conference itself the focus is on speaking and displaying information. In this connection, Gould (1995, p. 39) remarks that humanists inevitably read their papers from a manuscript, whereas scientists speak extemporaneously from written notes. He also says that scientists nearly always show slides, whereas humanists rely on text alone. These views may be exaggerations, and possibly now out of date, but they are important. Direct speech is clearer than spoken written prose. Thus, it is better to give a conference talk from a set of notes, perhaps prompted by visual aids, than literally to read the paper.

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