Sometimes when I am at a conference or in a seminar I find that I have absolutely no idea what the speaker is talking about. It is not just that I don't understand the finer technical details. I struggle to see the context, motivation, and background. The words are just jargon and the pictures are just wiggles and the equations random symbols. What is being measured or what is being calculated? Why? Is there a simple physical picture here? How is this related to other work?
A senior experimental colleague I spoke to encouraged me to post this. He thought that his similar befuddlement was because he wasn't a theorist.
There are three audiences for this message.
1. Me. I need to work harder at making my talks accessible and clear.
2. Other speakers. You need to work harder at making your talks accessible and clear.
3. Students. If you are also struggling don't assume that you are stupid and don't belong in science. It is probably because the speaker is doing a poor job. Don't be discouraged. Don't give up on going to talks. Have the courage to ask "stupid" questions.