A talk outline that starts with questions, ends with answers

Typical talks / presentations that I happen to attend go like this:

  1. We are doing research on X;
  2. Here is what we did, in detail;
  3. Q&A.

This is fine IF I already know exactly 1) what the problem is, AND 2) why it matters to solve that problem.

Why would I pay attention if I don’t?

In most cases I don’t. And this is not because I am dumb, arrogant, etc., but because we are probably not working on exactly the same problems, or I have simply not identified that problem, or if I did, I don’t find it motivating enough to dedicate time to it (i.e., we do not have the same priorities).

I would much rather prefer that you motivate me to think about that problem, before you tell me what you did about it.

And if you could do it via commonsense notions and vocabulary, I’d be more than happy. Because jargon is too often just a mask for incompetence.

A nicer outline would be:

  1. Suppose you, the person in the audience, are in the situation X… (add a photo or two, to make it more concrete);
  2. …and the problem you have is Y;
  3. Think about how you would solve it;
  4. Who (what groups of people) need to solve such problems?
  5. What are the typical ways in which others have been solving such problems so far?
  6. Here is how we solved it;
  7. Here is what is nice, and what doesn’t work in what w did;
  8. Go to (say where), or read (say what) if you want to know more;
  9. Q&A.

Not very hard to do.

Published by

Ivan Jureta

I hold the Senior Researcher (Chercheur qualifié) position with the Belgian national research fund (Fonds de la Recherche Scientifique – FNRS, Brussels) and am Associate Professor with the Department of Business Administration, University of Namur. My principal research interest is in method engineering and method automation, focusing on the elicitation, modeling and analysis of knowledge that human experts apply in problem solving and decision making, the engineering of ontologies and processes capturing that knowledge, and the automation of the said processes. This interest falls within the various research fields concerned with the transfer, preservation and automation of knowledge. I am the author of “Analysis and Design of Advice” (Springer, 2011) and have published over 50 research papers on these topics within the fields of requirements engineering, business analysis, and conceptual modeling of information systems. I organize and chair the series of International Workshops on Modeling and Reasoning for Business Intelligence (MORE-BI), held in Brussels in 2011 and Florence in 2012. I serve on scientific committees of the IEEE International Requirements Engineering Conference (RE), the International Conference on Advanced Information Systems Engineering (CAiSE), and the International Conference on Conceptual Modeling (ER). In parallel, I am / have been involved with several startups at CxO level and have held lead roles in Product Design for web and digital services that today serve more than 500.000 people every day.