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Magazine: Advice Marketing your ideas
Don't sell yourself short

Marketing your ideas
Don't sell yourself short

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You found a new algorithm? Why should we care? Somehow, you must attract our attention.

Richard Hamming, one of the founders of ACM, said it eloquently: "The world is supposed to be waiting, and when you do something great, they should rush out and welcome it. But the fact is everyone is busy with their own work."

Marketing may seem like a dirty word to engineers and scientists, but it is a necessary evil.

back to top  Take Your Time

Young scientists tend to rush their presentations. They work four months to a year on a project, yet they wait until the last minute before writing their paper and rehearsing their presentation—when they rehearse it at all.

We all have seen Steve Jobs, the CEO of Apple, show up for a presentation in jeans, without slides or special effects. But consider how Jobs has a clear theme and a precise outline. He never rambles. He has smooth transitions from topic to topic. His talks only appear laid back. In fact, they are precisely choreographed and thoroughly rehearsed.

What about reports and research papers? Rushing their publication is trading quality for quantity. It is an unfortunate trade, as there is a glut of poor research papers, and too few high quality ones. Continuous writing, editing, and rehearsal should be an integral part of your activities.

"Do not underestimate email. It is the most powerful medium at your disposal. Yet, you have to use it wisely."

back to top  Reach Out to Your Audience

Scientists and engineers are most successful when their work is most available. Torvalds and Berners-Lee initiated Linux and the Web, respectively, by emails sent to mailing lists. Perelman finished proving the Poincaré conjecture by posting eprints on arXiv, an open electronic archive.

But posting your content and giving talks is hardly enough. You have to use good marketing. If you want people to attend your talks, make sure your title tells them why they should attend. Think about your audience. They want to know whether they should continue reading your paper or come to your talk. Convince them that you have something remarkable to tell them. Avoid jargon, acronyms, and long sentences.

Do not underestimate email. It is the most powerful medium at your disposal. Yet, you have to use it wisely. To get famous people to read your emails, study their work. Show appreciation for their results. Think of reasons why they might find your question or proposal interesting.

For more advice, be sure to read or listen to Richard Hamming's 1986 talk "You and Your Research." The transcript and audio file are online.

back to top  Author

Daniel Lemire is a professor of computer science at the University of Quebec at Montreal (UQAM). He has a blog at daniel-lemire.com, where he sells his ideas every week.

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DOI: http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1764848.1764860

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©2010 ACM  1528-4972/10/0600  $10.00

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Thu, 03 Jun 2010 20:29:40 UTC

Post by Marvin Ford

Thank you Mr. Lemire for this valuable advice.


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