Category Archives: Tips

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.

Book Review- Rich Dad Poor Dad

Rich Dad Poor Dad: What The Rich Teach Their Kids About Money That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not!
by Robert Kiyosaki, 1997


Maria and I listened to this on tape together. I think it’s a great introduction to using your creativity to build your personal wealth. Learn the difference between assets and liability (in both abstract and practical terms) and learn how to focus on building assets in your life. If you are interested in owning real estate, the author includes a lot of examples about wealth-generation through real estate.

Whether you read the book or not, I would suggest playing the Cashflow Classic game by the author. It can be played for free online here.

Book Review- The Behavior Gap

The Behavior Gap: Simple Ways to Stop Doing Dumb Things with Money
by Carl Richards, 2012

The Behavior Gap

Quick read. Gives some great insights into why people do stupid things with money (emotions, fear, greed, lack of knowledge) and how to stop doing them (make a plan, stop watching financial news, set goals based on what is important in life). I think the topics touched on in this book are major problems for a lot of people, so it is suggested from that perspective. Pairs well with The Index Card. I do wish the author had created a stronger main narrative of the book, however; there were a series of topics related to behavioral financial issues, but the topics didn’t always feel interconnected.

Notes from “Holding Students Accountable for Coming to Class Prepared”

Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning brown bag session today. Here are my notes:

-All readings/preparations should have consequences. Students will not spend time on things that end up not mattering. I liked the phrase, “Set something on fire” to get the students attention to do the pre-class work.

-You need to create a culture of preparation early.

-One idea was to have “admission tickets”, whereby students hand in a small pre-class item for a nominal amount of points.

-Having effective pre-class work allows students to tell you the subjects that they want/need to spend more time on in class. This can either be done before class (ask questions ahead of time, see where the students’ answers are deficient) or during the start of class. This is an element of “just-in-time” teaching, whereby you figure out what needs extra discussion right before you have the discussion.

-One option to avoid calling on unprepared students is to have them take a quick quiz alone and then take the same quiz in their team. They can discuss the questions they did not know. Assign some combination of points across the individual and team aspects.

-One thought provoking-question was, “If everyone came prepared, how would class be different? Or, what else could we do in class?” Think about your answer to that. In my classes, we’d have time to evaluate more realistic examples/implementations. Another option would be to split the final project into bite-sized pieces that they work on over time with the extra time we create by coming to class prepared.

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.

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.

Book Review- The Index Card

The Index Card: Why Personal Finance Doesn’t Have to be Complicated
by Helaine Olen and Harold Pollack

The Index Card

This book comes from the idea that you can fit all the financial advice you ever need on an index card. High price/fee advice is overrated and financial good choices are actually simple. Good advice. Here is the index card and the book’s chapters: