Generally speaking, I prefer that a talk be a talk and not the reading of a paper (in almost no discipline other than ours do people regularly read their papers). Of those who don’t read, some talk from notes or slides. There seems to be some value attached to making do with less. At a conference long ago, one speaker gave his thirty-minute talk from a single index card; a later speaker topped that by giving his talk from what amounted to a postage stamp. Some speakers dispense with all aids to memory and talk entirely as if extemporaneously. I have had colleagues who were very impressed with speakers who did so. I am wondering now whether it is reasonable to be thus impressed.
For my part, I would say that since the ability to give a talk without notes could indicate merely a capacity to get things by heart, and since that capacity seems, on the face of it, not to have much to do with the quality of the philosophy one produces, we haven’t much reason to be impressed by extemporaneity. Nevertheless I must admit that I am sometimes impressed by it, I suppose because, as an expression of confidence, it seems to confer a certain authority on the speaker. But confidence is hardly a guide to veracity, and still less are expressions of confidence.
So: are you impressed by speakers who talk without notes? If so, why?