Friday, August 9, 2013

Improve your talk by writing your own introduction

Best to write your own introduction and ask MCs [Master of ceremonies] to deliver it than rely on their impromptu speaking skills. 
– Dr. Carmen Taran, author of Better Beginnings

Case in point, my name is difficult to pronounce in German and that's maybe I get the "did I pronounced it right?" question often.  I have a coworker and friend that even after more than 2 years still can't pronounce it right. So it comes at no surprise that at conferences some session's moderators also get it wrong. But the real feat came from one professor who being part of the same research network, and whom I had met at least 3 times before,  couldn't introduced me properly,  by not only mispronouncing my last name, but also by asking during the introduction "did I pronounced it right?", not at all professional.

It is very hard to find good moderators at scientific conferences. These people are not beginners, and there is no excuse for their bad moderation. But to be honest, nobody taught them how to be good moderators. Some just repeat what their colleagues do. Bad moderation hurt scientific talks, and here is why. The introduction of a speaker is intent to set the speaker's credibility, which is even more critical for graduate students and young scientists. Mentioning a speaker name and the talk's name says nothing, the audience can read it from the first slide. Moderators and speakers should work together!
  • A speaker should prepare her/his own introduction and handle it to the moderator before the conference starts and the moderator should contact the session's speakers with feedback and questions, and yes including how to pronounce the speaker's name.
  • A moderator should read all abstracts of a session and have at least one question per talk in case the audience doesn't ask one. 
  • A moderator should indicate a speaker when s/he has 5 minutes left and 1 minute left to end the talk. The speaker should be aware for how this is signalized. One possibility would be that the moderator shows a green card where "5 min" written and a yellow one with "1 min". Below I'm providing 2 png files with of size DIN A4 at 300 dpi and transparent background with each case.

Low resolution example of how the above resources could look like on colored paper.
In every case a speaker should prepare her/his own introduction.  An introduction could look like this
  • The speaker's name the wants to use, e.g. do you want to be called by your middle name instead of your first name? 
  • The name of the people and place where you are working. I have heard speakers correcting a moderator on the institution they work at. If you are participating in a research network involving other institutions this is the place to name it. Maybe you want to mention who your adviser is to raise your credibility. 
  • The field research your are working on – to provide meaning– and if any and appropriate previous contributions. Keep that to a maximum of 3 sentences. Close it with the title of your talk.
Leaving your introduction to chance is a waste. A good introduction starts your talk on the right direction even you start to talk. 

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