My recent pet peeve is introductions.
You know, the introductions that delay the start of a really good talk for five, ten, or even fifteen minutes. The ones where someone who is not the speaker you came to see has taken over the podium for several minutes. It gets even worse when there’s a host who introduces a dignitary speaker who then introduces the headlining speaker. Yes. This happens all the time.
We need to stop.
We need to stop because it’s not fair to audience participants. Audiences did not come to hear attention-starved administrators bait-and-switch us into providing them with a few moments of gratification.
We need to stop because its not fair to speakers who prepared great talks, and who are invited for a reason. And if someone is giving a talk, then they’re probably important enough that they are known in their specialty for what they do. That’s the whole point of inviting a speaker.
We need to stop because it takes an opportunity away from speakers to sell their ideas and hook us with what they have to say. If we really want us to know about someone’s credentials, pass out a CV, point us to a website, or even tell us at the end, which is when we are most likely to want to know more about who this person is with this great idea.
We definitely need to stop this bad habit in the academic world because its creating a culture of intellectual laziness.
What do I mean?
I mean that if academic work has any value, it’s because academics create new ideas and understandings that are useful for thinking about the world. So start the talk with the big idea, and if the idea is valuable, then I’ll want to know who they are. Don’t try to compensate for a useless idea by telling me how they had a great idea ten years ago. I don’t care. I want to know how the speaker is creating intellectual value now. If they’re not creating value, there’s no reason to give a talk. That’s not an insult, that’s just a reasonable threshold to cross if you’re asking for 90 minutes of my time.
The only people worth listening to are people who need no introduction. So don’t waste our time giving them one.