Roswell Thomas is one of the co-hosts of Phnom Penh’s Nerd Night – a quickfire series of informative lectures each with 20 slides of 20 seconds on a topic of the presenter’s selection. Based on the Pecha Kucha format developed in Japan, it’s been running in the capital since 2011. This week, he gave Alana Beitz a rundown of the Nerd Night team’s favourite talks from over the years
Mike Adams on Geocaching
“Geocaching” is a modern day treasure hunt, where enthusiastic members of the geocaching community hide treasure boxes marked via GPS in exotic locations. Anyone in the community can search for these hidden gems and register their find in the online logbook, where competitive members claim their victory. Mike’s enthusiasm for the hobby was infectious, and he had the audience enthralled by his tales of treasure hunting. Geocaching has become very popular, and many inventive caches are hiding all around us. It has become a global phenomenon, with a developing presence in Cambodia. Mike took us on an imaginative journey into a feel-good global community that transcends borders and demographics, which really resonated with our audience.
Julie Papagano on Gender
Julie Papagano’s presentation about moving beyond the gender binary made a deep impression on our audience. Before her presentation, Julie attended the Nerd Lab workshop, where speakers can develop their presentations before the night. She explained the gender AEIOs: Assignment, Expression, Identification and Orientation, and the whole group at the workshop realised we all had a different mix! When she took the stage, the audience was silent. Julie is an extremely well-spoken trans* woman, and her presentation was engaging and informative. She explained that we should refer to people by their gender expression, not their assignment. Many people came up afterwards to say how much they had learned. [Note: an asterisk after “trans” is intentional, as it’s preferred by the trans* community]
Christoph Luthy, Mathieu Bartozzi, Sam Whitley and Sotharin Mam on Rock Climbing
Nerd Night is about sharing your nerdy passion, and sometimes someone who is lucky enough to pursue their passion as their own business gets up to speak. We’re a bit wary of these presentations because they can come off as infomercials, which everybody hates, but Christoph’s presentation about the Phnom Climb climbing gym in Tuol Tom Poung was great. He brought three climbers onstage to share their stories about climbing a massive rock in the middle of the Cambodian countryside. We learned a lot about different approaches to climbing, and how to use climbing tools such as rope, trad lead and multi-pitch. The climbers also shared incredible photos of their summit with the audience.
Jo Snapp on Public Speaking
Since her first time bombing onstage during a high-school play, Jo had always been terrified of public speaking. It was an all-encompassing panic that makes her lose control of her body and speech; sometimes the fear is so intense, she will black out, like the time during her maid-of-honour speech at her sister’s wedding. After her first time in the Nerd Night audience, Jo decided to face her fears head on and gave her own presentation about the fear of public speaking. Using her background in social work and psychotherapy, Jo discussed the topic while identifying the symptoms she experienced in real time, such as nausea and shaking hands. Since then, Jo has joined the Nerd Night team and has even hosted a few of the events. Apart from a few manageable jitters, Jo has overcome her fear of public speaking.
Gillian Rhodes on Cambodian Dance
Gillian is no stranger to Nerd Nights. During her time working in Cambodia as a professional choreographer, she gave four presentations in three years. For her final Nerd Night, Gillian combined music and movement and pushed the format to creative extremes by performing 20 different dance styles for 20 seconds each. It was also totally Cambodia-centric, and most of the dances can be seen in Phnom Penh. Gillian performed traditional dances like the Monkey Dance, which is staged by Cambodian Living Arts behind the Royal Museum, and moves inspired by the School of Ballet. She also performed the “drunken backpacker” dance, another common sight in the Penh!