Does your student introduce his/her talk correctly?

After watching a lot of talks at ICPR and BMVC, I was struck by the number of talks that had this as their second slide:

This must be a very memorable slide, because I now remember the structure of about 50% of the talks that I saw. Unfortunately, I remember little of the content of the talks, because the speaker did not introduce the point that they wanted to make. The talks also wasted 1-2 minutes of the short presentation time saying nothing interesting and helped me lose concentration.

Now, if the talks had said this for the introduction:

You get the point: this introduces the content of the talk, not the structure of the talk. The quick summary also helps people remember the content, just in case you want people to use your method and cite your paper.

Now that I have your attention, let me also comment on the last paragraph in the paper's introduction, where s/he introduces the rest of the paper. How many times have you read a paper where that paragraph says: Section 2 gives the background of this paper, section 3 gives the theory, section 4 gives the experiments and section 5 gives the conclusion. Doesn't that tell you a lot? I bet you certainly remember the structure of the paper. Now, if instead the paragraph gave the 'take-home' message with pointers to the paper, then someone might remember the message and cite the paper. For example: "In this paper, we claim that technique X (see section 3) works better (see section 4) than previous technique Y (see section 2) when applied to datasets like A,B,C (see section 2).

Bob Fisher
October 20, 2010

Valid HTML 4.0 Transitional