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In order to attract conference attendees, get creative

Erick WikumBy Erick Wikum

With the 2018 INFORMS Annual Meeting in Phoenix fast approaching, here is a question to consider. Which of the following talks would you rather attend?

  • “An Inventory Model with Highly Variable Lead Times”
  • “YAIM featuring Delivery by Tortoise and Hare”

These fictitious titles are intended to refer to the same presentation. The first is what we would expect from a technical writer. The second is rather curious. What does YAIM mean and how does one of Aesop’s Fables enter in? The abstract would reveal that YAIM stands for “yet another inventory model,” a tongue-in-cheek indication that the author is well aware that inventory problems have been studied seemingly ad infinitum. In this context, the tortoise and the hare clearly indicate that delivery speed or lead time can vary considerably.

During the 2015 INFORMS Business Analytics Conference in Huntington Beach, Calif., Professor Sam Savage shared an insightful story with graduate students attending the INFORMS Professional Colloquium. Savage explained that during his early years of teaching, he quickly came to realize that: (a) very few of his students actually understood what he was saying, and (b) few of those who understood what he was saying were actually interested. He determined that rather than major in O.R. (operations research), he should have majored in PR (public relations). As a result, he quit teaching and became a street musician.

Here’s the point. If you want to attract an audience to attend your conference presentation, candidates for your job opening or individuals to compete in your award competition, you need to be creative and craft a message that engenders interest and stands apart from others. For example, INFORMS now utilizes a meeting app which, at the schedule level, displays only brief information regarding each talk. As attendees scroll through the various presentations, what will cause them to pay attention to yours, to drill down to your abstract and ultimately to attend your session?

The moral of the story is this: Come out of your technical writing shell, hop to it and inject some real creativity in the title and content of your messages.

Erick Wikum, the vice president of the Analytics Society of INFORMS, will assume the presidency during the INFORMS Annual Meeting in November.

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