Scientific Presentations
The Assertion-Evidence Approach

Exercise: Introducing a Colleague
Learning to speak without notes


This exercise calls on you to introduce a colleague (classmate) to the class. The occasion to introduce a scientist and engineer occurs often, such as when someone joins a team or someone makes a presentation to a different group. The purpose of the exercise is to have you generate content for a talk (Step 1), structure that content into a professional story (Step 2), and practice giving this story so that you can deliver it without notes (Step 3). In most scientific presentations, this story-telling style is the preferred way to deliver information. For this assignment, the target length of your introduction is 75 seconds (at least 1 minute and no more than 2 minutes).


Step 1. Develop content for your introduction.
Interview a partner to find out information that will make that person credible and memorable to the audience. In addition to standard questions about major and year of study, consider questions that will solicit memorable information:
a. What is unique about your hometown?
b. Describe your most interesting summer job or camp.
c. What are your favorite and least favorite foods?
d. What is a fear that you do not mind sharing?

Step 2. Arrange your content into a structure.
After gathering your content, organize that content into two or three divisions. People remember lists of twos, threes, and fours. Given that this talk is short, you should divide your talk into two or at most three sections. In addition, the two most important words that you will say in the introduction are the name of the person. For that reason, clearly state that name in the beginning and ending of your introduction. In fact, for emphasis, consider having the last two words of the introduction be the name.

Step 3. Practice your introduction so that you can deliver without notes.
In engineering and science, the most common type of delivery is speaking from an outline of ideas that you own. This style is not memorization, because you fashion the sentences on the spot. Nor is this style speaking off the cuff (also called impromptu), because you have planned and practiced the talk. Rather, this style calls upon you to learn a professional story and then fashion sentences on the spot to tell that story.

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