INTRO – Getting Talks Started

Start with a Factoid

Did you know that over 99% of PhDs experience difficulty with their research at some point of their studies? There is a real need, in my opinion, for researchers to be exposed to helpful concepts and tools to simply allow them more time to get on with the really important stuff. So I want to share with you a selection of really useful tools – the Beginner’s Guide To Useful Acronyms (BGTUA). Over the next two weeks I’ll be sharing eight posts to illustrate ideas that I have found really useful, both in my PhD and working with PGRs. I really want to hear your comments as I share these, and I’d love to know what your most useful acronyms are too! My aim with these posts is to show that acronyms are not just jargon – they are helpful constructs that can have big benefits.

That first paragraph, as well as being an introduction to upcoming posts, is a demonstration of the first idea that I want to share with you. It’s a neat little concept for starting talks that I’ve seen work really, really well in many settings. My good friend Dr Aimee Blackledge, a researcher-developer at the University of Liverpool, shared it with me, and now I pass it on to you. This tool is called INTRO.

What is INTRO?

INTRO is a way of structuring the start of a talk, but it could just as easily be applied to starting a chapter of your thesis, a paper, or even your own notes. With INTRO you give the person who you’re trying to engage a reason to do so: you make things simple for them, irresistible possibly! Each of these five letters – in order, no skipping around – gives a clear step for engagement, and it doesn’t have to take long.

Interest – begin with something to grab the listener (or reader); a statistic, a story, a joke that’s relevant, something to make them pay attention.
Need – that Interest needs to express something which the audience buys in to; tell them what you’re aiming at – not a want, but a Need.
Title – say what you’re going to be talking about, something snappy, something catchy if you can (catchier than BGTUA!); you may have a slide behind you with the title on, but don’t leave it as words on a screen.
Range – tell your audience how long you’re going to be talking to them for; state what depth you’re going to go into; at this point it could be really useful to let the audience know how you expect them to engage. Can they ask questions throughout or at the end?
Objective – what do you want from this? What do you want the person you’re trying to engage with to do differently? What is the change that you’re looking to make?

That last part is really important, whatever stage you’re at in your PhD (and beyond actually). What change are you looking to make – in yourself, through your work, through your interactions?

INTRO is a simple tool to start talks; it helps the audience, but also helps the presenter by giving a clear direction to start with – and I think it has much wider applications for structuring the start of writing.

Tomorrow I’ll share another acronym, this time one that I think will be familiar to many, but I hope I can show some new ideas with it. Thanks for reading!

Nathan (@DrRyder and @VivaSurvivors)

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