Friday, April 27, 2012

When a talk is just a talk

In academia, before you have a full time position you are often given the cautionary advice, "every talk is a job talk". This is often true, though not always in the short term.

Once you have a position, you are also told this, and "every talk is a funding pitch", i.e., to program officers, potential grant reviewers, etc.

There are other types of talks too. There are the "I might want to come to your university and am testing you out" talks, and also there are the, "We may want you to come to our university so are testing you out" talks. There are "tenure tour" talks, which is when TT professors travel to other universities to show off their steak knives and court letter writers. Sometimes this works in reverse, where junior faculty invite potential letter writers to their university to give talks.

Sometimes people give talks due to geographic convenience, or because they want to start a collaboration/friendship/etc with someone at that university.

I suppose sometimes a talk is just a talk, but I suspect that's the exception to the rule.


  1. You forgot about trolling for students.

    If you're in a specialized area or an area that is the applied version of another area (e.g. you want a good machine learning student but you just apply machine learning), then your talk can be "reason" for your visit, rather than to woo the best and brightest away for yourself :)

  2. A talk is just a talk in my institute when given by one of us: students or faculty. We want to tell our cs group members about our work. No funding pitch - it's an inhouse audience. No job-talk - my institute doesn't hire its own students. But I guess all our talks outside the institute are one of those mentioned in the post: job-talk, funding, testing-the-waters, potential-collaboration, ...

  3. Good point, Anon @ 6:26, forgot that one.

    Anon@10:35, yes, was referring to external talks.

  4. Surely this is somewhat determined by the situation and the ambitions of the talker. If the talker has some goal other than explaining research to others for the benefit of the audience, the worst we may accuse him or her of is acting from not entirely altruistic motivations.