A presentation is a moment in time. I have long referenced jazz and my own experience with jazz as having a great parallel to the act of a live talk or a presentation on the center stage. One thing that a live talk and a musical performance have in common—especially improvisational music—is that neither event is ever the same twice. They may be similar, they may cover similar ground, but they are never exactly the same. The message—the real meaning—is in the moment, in that interaction between audience and performer (or presenter). In this interview with London Real, famed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson relates Miles Davis's idea that you can not do again what you just did.
Tyson: The talk is my interaction with your live audience.
Below is the transcript from Dr. Tyson's riff on the importance of spontaneity and being in the moment.
"When you create—and it's on he spot and it's live—it's something that's never been created before even if the notes are the same on the page. The moment defines the creative expression. I feel that way when I give talks. When I give a talk, there are hosts of that event who will say: 'Oh, could you send your talk in advance?' No. The talk is the talk I give at that time, in that moment, to that audience. There is no 'talk in advance.' If I could send a talk in advance, I would do that and I would stay home. The talk is my interaction with your live audience. That's the talk." (emphasis mine.)
When I heard Dr. Tyson speak to the absurdity of "sending your talk ahead of time" in this interview, I practically fell out of my chair. I have been saying the same thing for more years than I can remember. It's just common sense. And yet it's refreshing to hear it from such great speaker and respected communicator of science as Neil deGrasse Tyson. Yes, dear conference organizers, please stop asking people to send their presentations in advance.
• "Slideuments" and the catch-22 for conference speakers
• Advice for conference presenters
• Advice on giving technical presentations