2

I am a PhD student, and just gave a talk about a model that my advisor and I have been working on in a small conference. During my talk, a professor pointed out that our model will have an serious issue in his field, which my advisor and I are not familiar with, so the model might not work. I wasn't sure how to respond to him at that moment. Fortunately, the issue only associates with part of my talk. And, my advisor was there, too. He responded to him that this part of the work is still in progress so I wasn't too embarrassed.

Therefore, I would like to ask, in general,

  1. How should I respond when an audience points out that there might be an issue in my work during my talk?

  2. How often does this happen in an actual talk?

  3. How serious is this?

2
  • 6
    This is too broad for us to answer. You should respond with whatever your response is, either come up with something or say "thanks, I'll look into this issue." It happens fairly often that you get asked questions. It could be serious. Sep 25 '16 at 0:03
  • Your advisor already gave you a good example as how to respond for your question (1). Question (2) and (3) are very broad. There are so many talks. How would anyone know how often this happens? (3) The seriousness depends on the hole in your model. How would we know how serious it was? Please narrow it down to smaller questions so we can answer (not to the specifics to your model). Thanks.
    – scaaahu
    Sep 25 '16 at 4:42
8

Whatever you say, don't get defensive or passive-aggressive. Just discuss the remark as it is. He may be right, he may be wrong, and he may just have an interesting point, which, while not invalidating your approach, may show you some ways not to go. I've seen various possibilities and derailed at least one talk myself. Such situation is not very common but it happens now and then and what it really calls for is pursuing the issue to the end (not necessarily during the talk; you'll have to think when discussing such stuff, and being at the blackboard with 20 people looking at you slows your brain down quite a bit).

If it is not immediately clear that the observation just kills the presentation completely (in which case the only decent exit is to step down) the obvious immediate response would be something along the lines "Thanks for the observation. I haven't noticed that. Let's discuss it right after the talk". In most cases people will be happy to do it and you'll learn something new in the process. It is normally understood that the discussion of a controversial point during the talk itself is not a great idea.

As to how serious it is, it won't hurt your reputation much, if that was the question, but it may be serious enough to force you to completely abandon your current approach and that is something you'll need to find out. Don't expect the objection disappear once that professor is out of the room. If it was a valid point, it will arise again and again, so you'd better address the issue right away.

1
  • Don't expect the objection disappear once that professor is out of the room. If it was a valid point, it will arise again and again, so you'd better address the issue right away. -- Hooray for science :) Sep 25 '16 at 9:57
2

1. How should I respond when an audience points out that there might be an issue in my work during my talk?

If it's an honest issue, then acknowledge it. Frankly, I'd state something like

We haven't covered this aspect as of yet, but thank you for pointing this issue for us; we will address this soon.

Replies like this are always welcome. It portrays your genuineness and a sport of research.

2. How often does this happen in an actual talk?

Depending on the conference, quite often; especially if your domain aligns well with the understanding of the audience.

3. How serious is this?

It depends on how you take it. It is something that you should expect from a conference. The rationale behind a conference is to share ideas and discuss on shortcomings that could be improved in future. It is preferred primary to journals in several institutions due to its dynamic nature (that is, for a 'good' conference).

Take it constructively and you'll be fine.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.