At the lectern, not heckling!


Next month I am giving my first paper at an academic conference.  When my abstract was accepted, I was delighted – especially as the event is taking place at the university where I did my first degree in the early 1970s.  Then I started getting seriously nervous.  A twenty-minute presentation began to seem like a really daunting task.

I did some teaching, many years ago, and have produced a few internet lectures, on the GEOSET site, now based at the Kroto Research Institute at Sheffield University.  Making the GEOSET recordings was a doddle.  I could practice on film, review my performance (with all the awfulness of noting my own particular hesitations and repetitions!) and then re-record an improved version.  Being in a small room, with no audience other than the camera, helped hugely.  (I urge anyone interested in having a go at the presentation of her/his research in a non-stressful setting to visit the little studio at the KRI.  Victoria Blackburn ( is now the GEOSET coordinator.)

… But back to my conference paper.  The content is not really a problem.  However, pacing and timing is.  The 25-odd slides have taken me HOURS to produce.  I have given much consideration to how much text to include, which images to use, the legibility of fonts and the best colours to employ; and I have spent time playing with the technology which allows you gradually to build up the information presented on one slide.  Now I feel that the difficult work has been done, and I just have to prepare a script.  Readers who are very familiar with the process of giving lectures illustrated with slides will consider the following statement as blindingly obvious: I have discovered that well-paced, apposite slides offer wonderful prompts to the speaker, making the whole process of delivery a great deal easier

Not very scary image of psychiatrist villain, Prof Strange

A not very scary image of psychiatrist villain, Prof Strange (but note the nod to Freud)

I am going to be talking about portrayals of psychiatrists in fiction and I have had fun finding images.  I include here a picture of Marvel Comics psychiatrist, Professor Hugo Strange.   This innocuous, copyright-free image is misleading – have a look at how scary a villain this comic-book psychiatrist really is at:



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