My experience listening to talks (of all kinds - seminars, conference talks, even Masters/PhD defenses) is that they tend to be very difficult to understand. This happens even if they're within my own field or even subfield. Occasionally there are conceptually simple talks (projects that use machine learning are an example) that can be easily grasped, but most of the time the talks are too technical, or are the "blink and you will never understand the rest" kind. I estimate I rarely get more than 30% of what was said, even when I'm in the same field.
I certainly don't feel like I'm the only one who don't understand the talks, since I notice other listeners often get distracted by their laptops & mobile phones.
I personally think this is ridiculous, so when I give talks I try to simplify them to the point where someone with an undergraduate degree can understand it. For example one talk went:
- We're dealing with [technical term], which is analogous to [much-less technical term]
- This is what we want to measure, why we want to measure it, and what we expect to see
- After some very complicated mathematics (I literally used this phrase and skipped the details), this is what we get
I especially liked this talk since my family were able to grasp the gist of the work. However, the danger is that the talk might become too simplified. An actual expert would likely gain more by reading the paper during the talk instead of listening to it. Also, it seems some people think complicated language is the "industry standard".
How can I tell if a talk has been simplified too much?