13 October 2005


I realised that I almost never write about the reason I'm in the UK: to study genetics. Wednesday was the first public demonstration of the work I've done here so far: a presentation to a joint meeting of the South/North of England Genetic Epidemiology Groups (S/NEGEG, or since both groups were there perhaps just EGEG?). I was the first of four speakers all slated to talk about aspects of whole genome association studies.

There are a number of good things about going first in a situation like this. The most obvious is that you get the presentation over with and then you can relax for the rest of the meeting. It's hard, though, to sit still for two and a half hours after you get all jacked up for your talk. The audience is still fresh and interested if you're first (nobody's fallen asleep yet). This is extra important for these themed meetings where everyone's likely to overlap a little bit. I got to say everything first and thus didn't have to worry about repeating what had already been said.

In the end I think the talk was fairly well received. There were about 100 people in the crowd, so not a massive house, but still a decent number. I was (of course) writing the presentation until 3AM the previous night, and had mixed feelings about the practice runs I had done beforehand (I kept editing my sentences out loud while practicing in my room) so I was unsure how it was going to come out. In the end I managed to explain all my points fairly clearly and managed to keep my pace even and my enunciation clear (experience on stage helps with that part). People were writing frantically while I talked, which usually means I've said something they didn't already know (a good thing) and I got some well-informed questions at the end, which means at least some of them understood what I said (another good thing). In fact, the worst feeling for a technical presenter is getting zero questions at the end because it almost always means that nobody got the point.

I got some positive feedback, but such things are always tough to interpret. Nobody walks up to you and says, "That talk blew goats." Still, you can pick up the difference between sincere compliments and empty flattery if you're careful, and I think some people actually meant what they said.

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