Lately I've been hearing a piece of advice given for formal presentations: to disarm your audience with a self-deprecating joke near the beginning of your talk.
The idea is, your audience will be less defensive and less likely to attack you if you acknowledge that you
a) may be wrong
b) may sound arrogant, but you don't mean to be
c) don't really want to be attacked.
I heard it more than once, thought it was stupid, and perhaps more importantly, a waste of a slide when you could be showing data (which should also, supposedly, make your audience less likely to want to chase you with pitchforks and torches).
And then I saw somebody do it. And thought it was stupid and clumsy and a waste of a slide, but I still found it sort of cute in spite of my thinking that. Which I guess is the point?
So my question is, does everybody think this is a necessary part of scientific presentations? Is it a new requirement?
I mean, it's one thing to start with a joke. I especially love it when someone uses a cartoon that has a double meaning for real life and the philosophy of science. Especially for an hour-long seminar (not so much for short talks, then it is definitely a waste of a slide!).
But a joke specifically aimed at yourself - isn't there a risk of coming across as being weak, like, "I'll pick on myself first! Please don't pick on me!!!"?
Note also that I got this advice from men; and the person I saw who did it was also a man. So I'm somewhat skeptical as to whether this would work for women, but especially for junior women. I'm afraid it just comes across as unprofessional, even more arrogant (who can afford to waste data slides??), or weak (and therefore even more attackable).
What do you think?