Grown-ups like numbers. When you tell them about a new friend, they never ask: "What does his voice sound like?" "What games does he like best?" "Does he collect butterflies?" They ask: "How old is he?" "How many brothers does he have?" "How much does he weigh?" "How much does his father make?" Only then do they think they know him. If you tell grown-ups, "I saw a beautiful red brick house, with geraniums at the windows and doves on the roof..." they won't be able to imagine such a house. You have to tell them, "I saw a house worth a hundred thousand francs." Then they exclaim, "What a pretty house!"
--Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince
I often have vivid fantasies about how my talks will be received: The audience will laugh at my jokes; listen in attentive silence about the obstacles I overcame to carry out my research; gasp in astonishment as I reveal my big finding which will change the field forever. And, at the end of my talk - concluded with a germane and heartfelt anecdote which ties everything together - an ocean-like roar of applause and yells as I am lifted up high on a chair and carried through the streets with great honor. The men shake my hand vigorously and the ladies kiss me on the cheek. "Hats off, gentlemen!" says the town crier, "A genius!"
For some reason, and much to my dismay, reality fails to match my heart's desires. The jokes and asides feel flat and fall stillborn from my mouth. The background of my study feels less like an epic and more like reciting a laundry list. (I swear it sounded much more interesting when I was rehearsing it to myself.) Any small issue with the projector cutting out or with my Powerpoint animations failing to work, in the moment feels as embarrassing and indecent as being caught with my fly unzipped.
But I keep going nonetheless, holding out hope to someday achieve that perfect talk combined with the perfect moment. The ultimate trade awaiting the ultimate practitioner.
In any case, something to strive for.