BizTech Communications without Tears


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Powerpoints for lecture in ENG 198 at the University of Illinois on Business/Technical (BizTech) communications (writing and presenting). Discusses process of writing, differences between BizTech and writing as taught in English/Rhetoric courses, and 2 key structures of BizTech writing, BPR and lists & amplification.

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BizTech Communications without Tears

  1. 1. BizTech Communications without Tears: Writing & Presenting Made Easy<br />David E. GoldbergIllinois Foundry for Innovation in Engineering Education University of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignUrbana, Illinois 61801<br />
  2. 2. Motivation<br />Engineers often relish technical work.<br />Don’t necessarily like to communicate it: Cool Hand Luke.<br />Need to understand <br />Why we don’t like to write or present.<br />Key differences between English/Rhetoric class & BizTech writing/presenting.<br />Mission nearly impossible: Writing & presenting complex, but can quickly survey success keys.<br />Paul Newman (1925-2008)<br />
  3. 3. Roadmap<br />Writing process:<br />Prime directive of writing.<br />Freewriting for loosening writer’s block.<br />Quickplanning as opposed to full outlines.<br />Key difference & structures of BizTech writing: <br />B-P-R: Background, purpose, roadmap.<br />Lists & amplification.<br />Elements of a BizTech presentation.<br />
  4. 4. Prime Directive of Writing<br />Writing process:<br />How many like to write? Why or why not?<br />Key problem: Endless circle of write and criticize.<br />Prime directive is to just write.<br />Separate writing into phase I, generation, phase II, quickplanning, and phase III, revision. <br />Must practice. How?<br />StarFleet Prime Directive (General Order #1): Don’t interfere with pre-warp cultures.<br />
  5. 5. Modeling Phase I: Freewriting<br />In Elbow’s Writing with Power freewriting exercise a key.<br />Freewriting = writing without crossing off on anything that comes to mind for fixed interval.<br />Let’s do it for 3 minutes.<br />Rules:<br />No stopping. Repeat nonsense phrase if stuck.<br />No crossing out. Not one word.<br />Direct style freewriting at particular task<br />
  6. 6. Phase II: Quickplanning<br />Full outlines can inhibit good writing.<br />Use quickplanning.<br />Like creating bullet points for a ppt presentation.<br />Do it hierarchically as necessary:<br />For the whole piece.<br />Section by section.<br />Subject to discovery of logic, content, and interrelationship.<br />
  7. 7. Phase III: Cut-and-Paste Revision<br />Just writing doesn’t create a written piece.<br />Phase III: Cut-and-paste revision.<br />Try it on physical paper first (no computers initially).<br />Steps:<br />Write every other line.<br />On one side of sheet.<br />Use scissors and glue stick.<br />Take directed “freewriting” as raw material.<br />Cut, paste, and interpolate between the lines.<br />Write new paragraphs as necessary.<br />
  8. 8. Key Δ & Structures of BizTech Writing<br />How is BizTech writing different from LAS writing?<br />Business/technical writers are all busy:<br />Need cues to where they are (roadmaps, titles, key words).<br />May not read everything (elements self-contained).<br />Different readers may read differently (techies vs. CEO).<br />Two key structures to promote effective BizTech reading writing: B-P-R & lists and amplification.<br />
  9. 9. B-P-R: Fundamental Structure of Writing<br />Forget freshmen English: No clever essays here.<br />What should I write about? How to start?<br />Every piece, every section need:<br />Background (history & motivation).<br />Purpose (of the piece, section).<br />Roadmap (of the remainder).<br />Army saying: Tell ‘em what you’re going to say, say it, and tell ‘em what you said.<br />
  10. 10. Background<br />Sometimes called motivation.<br />The fundamental discontinuity.<br />What is the context of what’s coming? <br />Project history & background, motivation, times, dates, players.<br />But remember, the clock is ticking.<br />
  11. 11. Rhetorical Purpose<br />“The purpose of this report (memo, section, letter, e-mail, whatever) is X.”<br />“In this report we present X.”<br />Say it. Not a mystery novel or freshmen essay.<br />Don’t confuse project purpose with rhetorical purpose. <br />Rhetorical purpose is the purpose of the piece (report, memo, section, whatever).<br />
  12. 12. Roadmap<br />Build a mental model or map for your reader. Tell them what is next.<br />“In the remainder, we examine X, Y, and Z.”<br />“The remainder of the report examines X, Y, and Z.”<br />If you don’t tell them where you are going, how will they know when they get there?<br />
  13. 13. B-P-R Iterated Hierarchically<br />Same structure used at the beginning of the report.<br />At the beginning of the section.<br />At the beginning of subsections.<br />Less context needed when you are in the middle, but still needed.<br />BizTech reader may not have read previous section.<br />
  14. 14. BizTech Writer’s Friend: Lists & Amplification<br />Lists and amplification.<br />Lists can be bulleted, numbered, either broken out or in line.<br />Use lists a great deal.<br />“In this section we cover the following 3 items:<br />Item 1<br />Item 2<br />Item 3<br />The remainder examines each in more detail.”<br />List them, then amplify each item in sequence.<br />
  15. 15. Elements of a BizTech Presentation<br />Title, author & affiliation<br />Foreword (Motivation)<br />Overview<br />Body<br />Summary and conclusions<br />
  16. 16. Titles as an Important Element<br />Is title a separate element?<br />First element seen or heard.<br />Decision to attend may be based on title alone.<br />Should be informative and interest-provoking.<br />A Comparative Analysis of Selection Methods in Genetic Algorithms<br />Genetic Algorithms, Noise, and the Sizing of Populations<br />A Gentle Introduction to Genetic Algorithms<br />Six Ways to GA Happiness<br />Don’t Worry, Be Messy<br />
  17. 17. Foreword or Motivation<br />Foreword, not forward: A word at the fore.<br />Sometimes called motivation.<br />Two parts:<br />Background.<br />Rhetorical purpose.<br />
  18. 18. Roadmap or Overview<br />Overview or Roadmap: laundry list of key topics.<br />Necessary road map for you and audience.<br />Intermediate overview slides helpful in long talks.<br />Foreword + Roadmap = BPR of writing.<br />1921 IL Roadmap<br />
  19. 19. Body<br />Hard to generalize.<br />Writing-like structure and flow.<br />Miller rule for bullets: 7±2 chuck size.<br />Eliminate unnecessary words: Transparency-speak.<br />
  20. 20. Summaries and Conclusions<br />Much confusion between summaries and conclusions.<br />Summary: What talk said.<br />Conclusion: How audience should change action or thought as a result of what talk said.<br />Recommendation: Action conclusion.<br />
  21. 21. Summary<br />Perfection as enemy of good BizTech writing/presenting. <br />3 phase approach:<br />Freewriting as practice to loosen pens.<br />Quickplanning to get the flow.<br />Cut-and-paste revision<br />Key difference: Busy people BPR and lists<br />5 Elements of a presentation.<br />
  22. 22. Bottom Line<br />BizTech seems daunting:<br />Separate writing from revision: creative key.<br />Quickplan, don’t overplan.<br />Know that your reader/listener is busy: provide devices like BPR and lists as aids to navigation.<br />Master the elements of a presentation.<br />Can be a master engineering communicator, to benefit of your work and career.<br />