Workshop on How to Write a Talk Abstract

This online workshop on How to Write a Talk Abstract was on Sunday July 27, 2021.

We held this workshop leading up to the one-year anniversary of this site and of People Interested in Quantum Universal Education. We would love to hear from you about your project, learning, and experiences with quantum science/computing/education/games to give a live, virtual 7-minute talk at the anniversary celebrations.
To give a talk, and/or register to listen to the talks and join the virtual meetups: https://fullstackquantumcomputation.tech/anniversary/

Before watching, enjoy the below short gif made by Alberto! workshop on How to Write a Talk Abstract


In developing this workshop, we referred to the template on writing a paper abstract from this guide by Tansu Alpcan as a source of inspiration, adapting it for a general audience talk abstract. This is just one possible general template for writing an abstract, and you are free to structure your abstracts however you like.

We’ve compiled below a Q & A of related questions answered at or following the workshop!
For anyone who thought of questions after or are watching from YouTube, we will try our best to answer all questions in the #ask-anything channel of our Discord server with join link https://discord.gg/NDm9e9W.

Q: What is the word limit of a talk abstract?
A: It’s up to the event/venue, which may or may not set a word, character, or page limit. For the PIQUE one-year anniversary, the maximum is 250 words.

Q: For the PIQUE anniversary, will each person who gives a talk receive a speaker certificate?
A: Yes, if your abstract is accepted and you give a live talk, you will receive a certificate!

Q: Before making an abstract, should I identify the audience or topic of the event?
A: Yes, knowing how the event is envisioned/described/advertised by its organizers will inform you of the expected type of audience. From that, you can decide how you want to write your abstract and prepare your talk.

Q: Should I target my abstract to the expected audience or to the organizers?
A: Both are important. You should target your abstract to the event audience. This would show the organizers that you understand and have put thought into the intended audience. Making sure your audience can understand your abstract will help make your talk an exciting contribution to the event and improve your chances that your talk is accepted.

Q: If the abstract can provide some “spoilers” (could be the hypothesis, principal contribution, highlights of the findings, experimental results, conclusion) as to the most exciting parts of the talk, how much “spoiler” should I give in the abstract?
A: Up to you! You certainly won’t be able to include the entire talk’s content within the abstract because the abstract is far shorter, but you can pick out the details you’d like to focus on. Depending on the topic, sometimes there is no way to present the result(s) in a way that is understandable to most of the expected audience from the abstract alone, without providing sufficient detail of how the result was obtained — sometimes, it is about the journey and not the result. The ideal “spoiler” should increase excitement but not ruin the story (for instance by adding too much unnecessary detail) — for example, movie trailers give away details about the movie without giving away the plot. Sometimes, especially in paper abstracts, the last line(s) of the abstract states numerical results so that they are easily viewable and eye-catching.

Q: What is the difference between a paper abstract and a talk abstract?
A: A paper abstract is what you read before you decide whether to read the rest of the paper, while a talk abstract is what you read before you decide whether to watch the talk. Not all talks will be advertised with an abstract, but that extra information is helpful in learning more about the topic before the talk happens. At some events, where a talk is given about a paper, the paper abstract and the talk abstract are the same abstract; at other events there may be talks given about a paper, but a talk abstract can be modified from a paper abstract to be more suitable for the talk audience.

Q: Should an abstract have citations?
A: It is good practice to include citations whenever others’ work are referenced. However, because an abstract gives a preview of a talk or paper, it should be understandable on its own, focusing on the contributors’ original work, and citations should generally be left to be within the talk or the paper itself. If necessary, such as if the work builds upon a specific other work, a few citations in the abstract are acceptable in some fields or venues.