Category Archives: Research

Presentation Week 2016

I’m going to start a yearly tradition. For one week in October/November, I will create a week’s worth of posts about giving presentations. I am constantly striving to improve my own presentation ability, and I think a lot of researchers need help to present their research effectively. Presentation Week will occur in advance of the INFORMS annual meeting in early/mid November, which is my main academic conference. Posts will be archived here.

Here are the posts for this year:
Monday: Planning the Length of Your Talk
Tuesday: Memorize your talk?
Wednesday: Slide Do’s and Don’ts (probably a post I’ll re-visit each year)
Thursday: Handling Questions Gracefully
Friday: Focus on What You Want the Audience to Remember

Much of the material I use comes from two books I read this year: TED Talks and Presentation in Action.

Book Review- TED Talks

TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking
by Chris Anderson, 2016


While the book is geared toward TED-style talks, it does have useful pieces of advice for any presenter. You just have to see a bit past the inflated discussion of presentation motivation. Not every talk’s topic is so all-important/all-consuming as to be your life’s work and worthy of a national audience. I am giving four talks at an upcoming conference. While I think they’re all awesome, I don’t make the mistake of believing each is life-altering.

I will use some of the advice from this book in future posts. I do suggest academic presenters read it; again, take it with a grain of salt, though. Here are some quick quotes from the book:
-“Your number-one mission as a speaker is to take something that matters deeply to you and to rebuild it inside the minds of your listeners.”
-From Sir Ken Robinson: “There’s an old formula for writing essays that says a good essay answers three questions: What? So what? Now what? [My talks are] a bit like that.”
-“To make an impact, there has to be a human connection. You can give the most brilliant talk, with crystal-clear explanations and laser-sharp logic, but if you don’t first connect with the audience, it won’t land.”
-From Salman Khan: “Be yourself. The worst talks are the ones where someone is trying to be someone they aren’t. If you are generally goofy, then be goofy. If you are emotional, then be emotional. The one exception to that is if you are arrogant and self-centered. Then you should definitely pretend to be someone else.”
-“Many speakers use their slides as memory nudges… What you mustn’t do, of course, is to use PowerPoint as a full outline of your talk and deliver a series of text-crammed slides. That’s awful. But if you have elegant images to accompany each key step of your talk, this approach can work very well, provided that you’ve thought about each transition. The images act as terrific memory nudges, though you may still need to carry a card with additional notes.”

There’s a useful appendix at the back of the book that contains all the TED talks that the author, who organizes the TED movement, references. You could watch those for inspiration.

On the Operations Job Market: Reflections and Insights

The pdf is available here. Written by Renyu (Philip) Zhang in April 2016 after receiving placement at NYU Shanghai. The discussion is tuned for students looking for placement in OM departments of business schools. The advice is not overly surprising, but rings true. One snippet:

Compared to the need and connection attributes, the communication attribute is more controllable by a PhD student. I want to emphasize again that, in order to excel on the OM job market, you have to be a great communicator to convince schools that you have the potential to become a good colleague, a good researcher, and a good teacher. You need to train yourself to become a great communicator through continuous practices, both in casual small talks and in formal seminar presentations/teaching/public speaking. To improve the communication skill in small talks, it is advised that you regularly attend some social events (including the ones during conferences) to practice talking with others. You should also learn from the great small-talkers. Your school may also offer some communication classes that you can take. Your objective should be that, after years of practices, any stranger that speaks with you would find you a delightful person to talk with. For presentation skills, I would recommend you take as many opportunities as possible to present in classes, seminars, and conferences. You can also learn some presentation skills by taking presentation classes and/or watching videos of great presentations in, e.g., YouTube or TED Talks. Your objective of the year-long presentation skill practice is that your presentation will be clear, engaging, technically solid, and broadly appealing to the audience not familiar with your work or even your area of study.

Thanks to Xuan Feng for sharing.

Excerpts from ‘Elements of Style for Writing Scientific Journal Articles’

The full, short paper is here. These are the suggestions I thought most relevant:

-Write for the busy reader who is easily distracted.

-Use the present tense for known facts and hypotheses. Use the past tense for describing experiments that have been conducted and the results of these experiments. Avoid shifting tenses within a unit of text (paragraph, sub-section or section).

-Use the active voice to shorten sentences.

-Eliminate redundant words or phrases. “Due to the fact that” becomes “because”.

-Write direct and short sentences. The average length of sentences in scientific writing is only about 12-17 words.

-Avoid making multiple statements in one sentence. Link sentences together within a paragraph to provide a clear story-line.

-Put statements in positive form. Use “He usually came late” instead of “He is not very often on time”.

-Provide a logical transition from one paragraph to another.

-Avoid using “this” unqualified. It’s not always obvious what “this” is.

-Avoid subjective or redundant words or phrases that will date the paper. Examples: “high resolution”, “new result”, “latest findings”.

-Avoid expressions of belief, instead giving logic as to why something will be true.

-Cross-reference equations, figures, and sections both by their number and by their name. I hadn’t thought about this and never do it. Use “as discussed in the methods Section 2” instead of “as discussed in Section 2”. Makes life easier for the reader.

-Allow the reader to digest a figure’s main points without reading the text. Figures should be able to stand alone.

-When editing, read your work as an interested and smart non-expert.

2017 Early-career Sustainable Operations Workshop

Re-posting the call for presentations from Professors Kraft and Agrawal:

Dear colleagues,

We are happy to announce that the 2017 Early-career Sustainable Operations workshop will be held March 3rd – 5th, 2017 at the Darden School of Business, University of Virginia.

The program will follow a format similar to the past two years, with a dinner to be held Friday night, followed by a full day of presentations and panels Saturday, and then a half day of presentations on Sunday. The conference is sponsored by the Darden School of Business, the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University, and the Ray C. Anderson Center for Sustainable Business at the Georgia Tech Scheller College of Business.

The program committee includes Atalay Atasu (Georgia Tech), Eda Kemahlioglu-Ziya (NC State), Beril Toktay (Georgia Tech), Vishal Agrawal (Georgetown), and Tim Kraft (Darden). We plan to schedule 6-8 presentations on Saturday and 3-4 presentations on Sunday. We are inviting junior academics (untenured faculty) and PhD students who are interested in presenting to submit a 1-page abstract or a working paper, if one is available, to by November 4, 2016. Notice of acceptances will be sent by December 16, 2016. Ties will be broken in favor of full papers.

For more information or questions, please email Tim Kraft at or Vishal Agrawal at

Thank you!
Vishal and Tim

Tim Kraft
Assistant Professor
University of Virginia
Darden School of Business
Charlottesville, VA 22903

Vishal Agrawal
Associate Professor
McDonough School of Business
Georgetown University
Washington, D.C.

Checklist to use before submitting paper

-Are your research questions clear and well-motivated?
-Is there a consistent narrative throughout paper?
-Is the contribution well-justified?
-Are the journal guidelines and formatting instructions followed?

Paraphrased from a talk at the Young Scholars Workshop of the Behavioral Operations Conference in July 2016.

Links 20160825: Writing and Teaching Posts

Elements of Style for Writing Scientific Journal Articles. Funny because I’m also re-reading Strunk and White right now.
How to write a paper. One.
How to write a paper. Two.
Prototyping mathematical papers.

Defining the relationship between professor and student.
Where are we heading? Asked in an academic job interview.
Probabilistic true-false questions.

INFORMS 2016 Presentations

Nov. 14, 2016, 1:30 – 3:00 PM
Mind The Gap: Coordinating Energy Efficiency And Demand Response
Eric Webb, Owen Wu, Kyle D. Cattani, Kelley School of Business, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN

Nov. 15, 2016, 1:30 – 3:00 PM
Predicting Nurse Turnover And Its Impact On Staffing Decisions
Eric Webb, Kurt Bretthauer, Kelley School of Business, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN

Nov. 16, 2016, 12:45 – 2:15 PM
Linking Customer Behavior And Delay Announcements: Are Customers Really Rational?
Eric Webb, Qiuping Yu, Kurt M. Bretthauer, Kelley School of Business, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN

Nov. 16, 2016, 4:30 – 6:00 PM
Using Past Scores And Regularization To Create A Winning Nfl Betting Model
Eric Webb1, Wayne L. Winston2, 1Kelley School of Business, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, 2Bauer College of Business, University of Houston, Houston, TX

Busy busy busy

-I am sprinting to finish two papers (“Mind the Gap: Coordinating Energy Efficiency and Demand Response” and “Linking Customer Behavior and Delay Announcements: Are Customers Really Rational?”) by July 24.

-I am presenting the delay announcements paper at the Behavioral Operations Conference this Friday in Madison, WI.

-After the conference, Maria and I are doing an amusement park tour of the Great Lakes region: Michigan’s Adventure, Canada’s Wonderland, Hersheypark, Dorney Park, possibly Wildwater Kingdom, and Cedar Point. We’ll also stop in Indiana Dunes State Park, Chicago, Detroit, Niagara Falls, Philadelphia (for a Phillies game), and Cuyahoga Valley National Park. We’ll be back in Bloomington on July 26. During the trip, I’ll frequently be finalizing the two papers above while Maria drives.

-After I get back, I am sprinting again to re-submit “Incentive-Compatible Prehospital Triage in Emergency Medical Services” by mid-August.

-As such, there won’t be many website posts for the next month or so.

-After that, I will be working on a project inspecting the behavioral aspects of staffing and turnover, a new energy project, and finishing up my NFL betting project.