diary Teaching

Asking questions at Presentations (Part 3)

We discussed about how to generate questions when attending a presentation in Part 1 and Part 2. If you haven’t read this previous blogposts or need a refresher, click on the link.

Preparation On Both Sides

While preparing for the previous blogposts, I stumbled across several sources, all of them focusing on which questions to prepare for when presenting.

At first, I was focused on extracting the common pieces of information for the opposite side, aka preparing questions as the audience. Now that this has been discussed in Part 2 (and most likely in the future as I refine the Endless Question Generator), I thought about revisiting these sources and summarise the questions you definitely need to prepare as a presenter.

So let’s see what those questions are.

Questions Recommended to Prepare for

As the Endless Question Generator showed, there is a certain structure to the vast majority of questions you may face as a presenter. As indicated on some sources (, there are some questions you should prepare the answer for as they are likely to be asked.

  • What was the point? Remind the audience about the key points of your presentation and the reason it might interest them.
  • What’s next? Indicate what you intent to work on next, showcasing how live this project is.
  • How have you done this? This is asking for clarification on the methodology you followed in your work. Clarify it.
  • What do you mean by this? This is more a definition issue. Make sure that all terms are adequately chosen and clear for the intended use.

The best remains to rehearse your presentation with a colleague (or at least record yourself). I’m sure you’ll do well in your presentation.

Closing Words

And which questions do you usually prepare for or have faced in your experience?

Thanks for reading. See you tomorrow.


Marking in Progress

This is going to be a short post as it’s already late and tomorrow will be a long day as well.

This Part of the Education Cycle

Marking constitutes an inherent part of any teaching job, as much as exams are an inherent part of any students’ journey.

Exams are dreaded by students for the stress during the examination and the release (and consequences) of the resulting marks. Teachers also have to put a lot of efforts (aka time) into writing exam questions. Once the examination completed, the teachers will also spend a significant amount of time marking all these exam transcripts.

All in all, we all have to commit to exam and marking.

A Love Hate Relationship

I’m sure this is a feeling shared by many colleagues, but I’ve have a love-hate relationships with exams.

I like examining my students to measure (relatively quantitatively) how they have grown as skilled engineers. However, the volume of marking (easily 30min per transcripts and hundreds of them to mark) makes it a very daunting task…

To help me motivate myself to even start each mini marking sessions (it is unrealistic to mark everything at once), I usually keep picturing the curious and engaging students I have so much enjoying sharing knowledge and interacting during the course. Even if the transcripts are anonymous (which is an essential aspect of marking), my mind remains curious about how closer to a full engineer these students have become.

This means that I need to examine them. This means that I need to mark…

Closing Words

How do you tackle marking? Do you have any suggestions?

Thank you for reading. See you tomorrow.

diary Teaching

Asking Questions At Presentations (part 2)

Forewords: this blogpost constitutes the continuation of this Part 1 on ‘Asking Questions at Presentations’. Feel free to read this introductory post first, which covers the motivation for these posts.

Shall I Dare to Ask?

First of all, there is no stupid question.

If something is obvious, it means that either the presentation or its context wasn’t explained clearly enough. Presentaterw assume a certain background from their audience and this can be often miscommunicated. A question about what may seem an obvious contextual point may in fact reveal a deeper misunderstanding by either the rest of the audience or the presenter themselves.

Furthermore, presenters are often way more stressed than their audience. Questions about their presentation is thus received as a confirmation that their presentation capture the attention of audience, transforming their ordeal into a worthwhile experience. You never know, a good question may even serve as an effective icebreaker for later conversation off the stage.

So take your chance!

But What to Ask?

Similarly to a lot of skills, training makes the answer to this question eventually more obvious.

The trick is to keep asking questions at every occasions (like my colleague suggested in Part 1) by using some box-standard questions like “Why have you chosen this methodology?” or “What is next in this project?”. Eventually, your ability to ask questions will sharpen and find more advanced and tailored questions to ask. Again the key message remains that, by aiming to ask at least one question, your attention to the content of the presentation is innatly enhanced and details or patterns will more naturally emerge.

But let’s see if I can help you with some starter questions first.

Looking for a Idea Generator

While searching for resources on online writing, I came across this very interesting concept: ‘the Endless Idea Generator’ (see picture below) from Ship30for30; a 30-day writing challenge with loads of tips about online writing. You can either follow their Twitter account or subscribe to their free newsletter from their website.

The Endless Idea Generator by Ship30for30 including the three categories: What do you want to write about?, proven approach, and credibility.
The Endless Idea Generator by Ship30for30 (

The neat concept here consists in mixing three categories: “What do you want to write about?”, “Proven approach”, and “Credibility”. As much as this is not going to make you win a Pullitzer prize, this is definitely a great starting point, especially when you are short on ideas or facing the dreaded writer’s block.

So this inspired me to create a similar framework about asking questions at presentations.

The Endless Question Generator

This framework (see picture below) aims to help in creating your first questions when none are coming to your mind in time.

The Endless Question Generator

You start with the classic five W-questions: What, Where, When, Why, hoW. The ‘What‘ question focuses on a detail of the presentation. The ‘Where‘ and ‘When‘ point towards location in space or time. The ‘Why‘ questions motivations and reasoning. The ‘How‘ is often associated with methodology.

Then you choose a Context or Theme. You could ask about the motives of the work, whether they are internal or external, or based on a starting point or end goal. Another theme revolves around the potential applications of this project; if they puzzle you or you have an idea about one, then enquire the presenter. Presentations also include a lot of definitions, sometimes clearly mentioned, often implied. If a term or concept is not clear to you, ask! Most likely half of the audience didn’t understand it either. Furthermore, if you know of similar works, you can ask for the viewpoint of the presenter about how they compare. Moreover, a project often uses data and a methodology to arrive at results or products, both of these points can be questionned either for their validity or how they have been chosen / implemented. Finally, you can enquire about the outcomes and what comes after this project. It can be in the form of future works after this project or the lessons learnt from this study.

Finally, your question can be angled with a reason of why you are asking it in the first place. These can range from the simplest reason where you need a clarification on a point mentioned (or not) during the presentation to sharing your knowledge on a similar work and wish to get the take from the presenter. A presentation may make sense on its own but could be hard to contextualise it in the wider context of how it connects with either other ongoing projects or its own start/end points. The methodology and results are always endless sources of (heated) discussions about which one is the most appropriate or the impact on the results one would get from the data or its influence on the collected data itself.

Remember, that preparing your questions (whether from this template or tailored to the presentation) will always pay off. So read about the presenter and advertised content beforehand, and pay attention to both the details and the big picture during the presentation. All these points will make you a better audience and position you in a better light with the presenter (or worse light if you intend to be controversial!), potentially leading to cooperation and more idea sharing.


  • [What/motivation/clarification] What motivated you to start this project?
  • [Why/definition/similar project] Why did you decide to define this term in this way when another project did it another way?
  • [Where/data acquisition/cooperation] Where did you acquire this data? We would like to use the same data, please.
  • [Who/future works/contextualise] Who will benefit from the outcome of this work?
  • [How/lesson learnt/clarification] How are you going to disseminate the learning from this project?

As you can see, there are an endless list of questions, which can be generated from this framework.

Going Further

Eventually, after training numerous times with this framework, you should be able to come up with your own questions; possibly graduating beyond the W-questions into W-less questions such as “Have you considered comparing your results with this particular study since the correlation A with B is less obvious here given that condition C is not longer present?”.

I’ve tried this fact sheet with project students during our weekly meeting and it turned out to be quite successful. This obvious still requires quite a bit of tuning, especially as this blogpost illustrates a sustantial amount of explanation is still needed beyond this simple picture. I’ll most likely post a Part 3 of this series when this framework reaches significant updates.

Closing Words

This post managed to start the creation of this guide on ‘Asking questions at a presentation’ by providing a framework on ‘which question to ask’. I will continue to experiment with this guide and come back here with updates.

Do you have any suggestions? Do you plan to use this question generator? If so, what was your experience? I’m looking forward to your feedbacks.

Thank you for reading. See you tomorrow.

Biography diary

The Yellow Brick Road of a Power Research Engineer (Part 1)

A Personal Journey

For today’s post, I thought that a little bit of background presentation would be welcomed.

One curious question to ask to older people (I’m no longer young, nor old – does that make me you-ld?) is which path they have followed to end up where they are. This question often stems from a desire (or sometimes fear) to find the most efficient paths by looking at successful people (or alternatively avoid those from perceived less-sucessful people) and replicate  (or alternatively avoid) these paths.

There is indeed something too learned from elders but strictly copying someone else’s path is at best misguided and at worse a trap. The explanation basically lies in the fact that a career path is often characterised by its uniqueness and replicating it will most likely miss some elements (due to the passing of time, differing trends, personal contacts). An illustration could be like taking a train to travel fast to a place far away: one could come to the same platform at the same time at which an older mentor used to take, but the timetable has changed since then and one cannot travel to their dreamed place. The lesson here would be that trains are a good way to travel fast and far but not to focus on the one train that this older mentor used to take 20 years ago.

But I’m getting distracted. The point of this blogpost was not to sermon you with a life lesson but to share the story of my own (ongoing) path.

An Objective Set from the Beginning

For all the ups and downs and twists on this road which is life, I profoundly love the domain I’ve ended up focusing my career: Engineering.

Since an early age, the passion for assembling and disassembling things was strong. You could call that the knack if you know the reference 😉 One of the early experiments which made a strong impression in my early memories was a simple electrolysis by short circuiting a battery with electrodes plunged in water. Lego sets obviously played a big part in my playtime back then, and even now I like using my niece and nephews as crime partners to justify playing with Lego bricks again.

So it was clear back then already that I would head to an engineering programme when applying to university.

A First Failure

Amongst the pletora of engineering schools available in France, I ended up registering to UTBM (University Technology Belfort-Montbeliard). Something about being far from Paris, something about their hybrid university-school approach, something about their multi-disciplinary approach… Something, many things prompted me to move 600 km away from home into the unknown.

Living in Belfort had been a tremendous and life changing experience. I’ve met many amazing friends, some of them I’m still in touch with to this day. Living far from home also massively boosted my independence and one of the unanticipated consequences turned out to be my developing passion for home cooking; ranging from baking breads or brioches to making chocolates and experimenting with foreign cuisines, to the delight of my flatmates and friends back then (my wife also greatly benefits from the learning of this period). These friendships also taught me lot about self-image, confidence, extraversion, social culture, sharing, and trust. The student societies I participated in also taught me a lot more on other topics such as work ethic, team working, passion for a shared project, enabling events for others, networking, and more.

University-wise, the picture was however a lot less rosy. The hybrid university-school approach wasn’t working for me. I’m sure this will constitute the subject of a future blogpost but, in a nutshell, I felt behind by Year 2 and faced the disciplinary council for under performance. This led to my dismissal of this university, with a comment from a prominent professor that “I wasn’t cut for higher education”.

A Windy Road Back Up

As I was seeing the end of the road at this first university, I prepared another application for a local, lower-ranked university (you could call them vocational school or polythenics in British culture I think). It was a huge relief when my application had been promptly accepted to the Institute University Technology Belfort-Montbeliard, specialty Genie Electricity and Industrial Informatics (IUT BM GEII).

The much more practical approach to teaching (loads of labs, theory after practice, friendly and supportive teaching staff) resonated with my passion for engineering and something clicked back then. My marks shot up to the top range of the class and I even started working on some home electronics projects.

After the 2-year programme at this institution, my knowledge started accumulating, my confidence mostly restored, my passion for engineering massively inflammed, I was hungry for more.

Closing Words

This covers the first few years of my university journey and there is still quite a lot to cover. Let’s thus split this post into another multi-part post. Hope you’ll enjoy the serie.

Thank you for reading. See you tomorrow.