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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Does Not Translate?: How to Present Your Work to Real People

Recently I've agreed to give talks on social media law issues to "real" people. For example, one of the breakfast talks I've been asked to give is aimed at "judges, city and county commissioners, business leaders and UF administrators and deans." Later, I'm giving a panel presentation on the topic to prominent women alumni of UF. My dilemma is that I want to strike just the right tone and present information at just the right level for these audiences. But I'm agonizing over some basic questions. Can I assume that every educated person has at least an idea of how social media work? What segment of the information that I know about Social Media Law and free speech would be the most interesting to these audiences, and should I just skip a rock over the surface of the most interesting cases and incidents, accompanied by catchy images?  How concerned should I be about the offensive potential of talking about the real facts of disturbing cases for a general but educated audience? As a Media Law scholar and teacher, I'm perfectly comfortable talking about the "Fuck the Draft" case or presenting slides related to the heart-wrenching cyberbullying case of Amanda Todd that contain the words "Flash titties, bitch." But can I talk about this at breakfast? If I can, do I need to give a disclaimer first? And for a general audience, do I want to emphasize the disruptive potential of social media speech, or do I have an obligation to balance that segment of the presentation with the postive aspects for free speech? And do any of you agonize over such things every time you speak to a new audience?

Anyway, translation advice is appreciated. I gave our graduation address in December, and I ended up feeling as if I'd hit the right note by orienting the address around a memorable story from history that related to the challenges of law grads today. But the days and even the minutes preceding the speech involved significant agonizing, which you'd think someone whose job involves public speaking on a daily basis wouldn't experience.



Posted by Lyrissa Lidsky on January 30, 2013 at 10:07 AM in Current Affairs, First Amendment, Information and Technology, Lyrissa Lidsky, Teaching Law | Permalink


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Lyrissa, I've given speeches to non-lawyer audiences before on aspects of social media law, including talks to groups of women business leaders here in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. I always self-edit on the potentially dicey facts or language (as we both know as graduates of UT Law, this IS the buckle of the Bible Belt). I also tend to assume a basic working knowledge of social media, unless the group skews a little older. Like the previous comment noted, I try to keep the mood fairly light; sometimes I use embedded movie or TV clips in my PowerPoint, such as a scene from "The Simpsons" in which addiction to social media in Springfield is seen as the prelude to apocalyptic goings-on. I throw in examples of the positive aspects of social media (its utility in aiding disaster relief, for example, or accelerating public discourse on a given topic), and I stress that social media platforms are merely tools subject to the same utility or misuse as any other other communications channel. With non-lawyer audiences, I tend to use more humorous examples of social media misuse, to break the ice and relax the audience. I hope this helps and good luck with your presentations! John Browning

Posted by: John Browning | Jan 31, 2013 6:30:47 PM

These are some interesting points that you bring up. It can be a challenge to present information in a way that is interesting and will keep people's attention but at the same time get your message across. Public speaking is a medium that does require more finesse. It is possible to present serious information in a light way. I would assume that most people know generally what social media is but may not know the specifics about how it works depending on the audience. There are always ones in the audience who do not know so it's a good idea to not neglect these folks. You can always say, "For those of you who do not...." I would keep the mood light and not get too deep about certain stories. You don't want them leaving your appearance feeling depressed. It's ok to mention and make your point but maybe best to leave details out unless they are necessary to make your point. Good luck!

Posted by: Mehr S | Jan 30, 2013 4:51:34 PM

I think you're asking slightly different questions. If the question is about getting into the gory details of the cases, I agree that a generalist audience may be less comfortable talking, explicitly, about titties. And frankly, I don't know whether a disclaimer is enough. If the question is whether you can dig into the problems of social media as well as the good, the answer is absolutely yes. At the very least, if there is someone in the crowd whose knee-jerk reaction is that social media is all good, the discussion of its evils may be eye-opening. The nice thing for you, it seems to me, is that you are discussing easily accessible issues that a generalist audience knows and probably has an opinion about.

Posted by: Howard Wasserman | Jan 30, 2013 2:39:01 PM

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