The assertion-evidence approach to technical presentations: Overcoming resistance in professional settings

Elizabeth L. Miller, Michael Alley

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The assertion-evidence (AE) approach to presentations is a non-traditional way [1-4] for engineers and scientists to share their work with their audiences. In short, the approach calls on presenters to build each talk on messages (not topic phrases), to support those messages with visual evidence (not bullet lists), and to explain that evidence by fashioning sentences on the spot (but only after planning and practice). Research shows that presentations with the AE approach lead to deeper understanding of the content not only by the audience [5-7], but also by the speaker [8]. Given its advantages, the AE approach is being increasingly introduced to college students through communications courses and organizations such as the Engineering Ambassadors Network [9-10]. This paper is an exploratory study on the experiences of students presenting in postgraduate settings after learning the AE approach. In order to gage the resistance to and potential of the AE approach in such settings, we surveyed thirty college students and young professionals, asking questions in a fashion that encouraged the interviewees to volunteer information. These surveys, which followed the customer discovery approach used in lean design [11], were then analyzed to understand how AE is received outside of the classroom. Participants in the survey showed that once they learned the AE style, they preferred to use it for presentations in industry and research. Since the style is not widespread, though, participants described facing resistance from superiors and peers because of uncertainty about the style and opposition to deviating from company standards and traditional methods. Defying this resistance, many participants who attempted to incorporate elements of the AE style found that they had great success with those who were initially opposed, as well as with almost all of their overall audiences. With most engineers and scientists looking for ways to improve their presentations, participants expressed beliefs that great potential exists for the AE approach to be spread to professional settings through individuals giving AE talks in those settings and through online resources.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - Jun 24 2017
Event124th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition - Columbus, United States
Duration: Jun 25 2017Jun 28 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Engineering(all)


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