You've been invited to give a presentation on your research to a group of influential policy-makers. You have 15 minutes. Excited, you say 'yes', and start to prepare your PowerPoint slides. Your slides include a nice intro, a brief overview of the research, a couple of slides on
the results and a concluding slide with your name and contact info. You do your 15 minute slot, receive some polite interest and 1 or 2 careful questions. Then you're done and you leave.
And chances are you will never hear from any of these people again.
How can I say that? Because I've probably done more of these than Alex Piquero has done conference presentations (which I assume is quite a lot).
Let's start with a simple question: why are you doing this presentation? No, seriously, what's the point?
Hopefully, the answer is: I want to use research to influence a shift in policy or practice that will improve a given outcome.
So, how did you go about doing that? By talking to an influential group as though they were the typical student hostages held captive at a mandatory brown bag seminar.
Having done and watched many such 'pitches' to policy makers, I'm always shocked by the lack of an 'ask.' What is an 'ask', you ask? It's the reason why you're doing the pitch: to ask for something.
For some strange reason, researchers are often loathe to state their 'ask' in bald terms - that is, to say "this is what I want you to do." Instead, we present our slides and think it should be obvious what the correct answer is. But, here's the thing:
a. you actually need to do the work of telling people what you want and;
b. how they can go about achieving the policy goal you set, or
c. likely, you will be completely wasting your time
What I have learned to do over the years is to provide a very explicit* 'Ask' at the end as the logical conclusion of what I've been talking about. For example, I've given talks to crime analysts' groups where I've introduced new tools and resources and 'asked' for feedback or 'asked' for new product ideas. I have presented to Chiefs and 'asked' for institutional support for increasing opportunities for creating & sharing research knowledge. In doing so, I also laid out how they can go about accomplishing this goal.
In fact, I don't even always use the medium of a 'pitch' to 'ask.' I will also pick up the phone, text, or email for potential 'asks.' I realize this makes me very un-Canadian, but I have learned that if you don't 'ask', you don't get.
University of Western Ontario
*At one 'pitch' I was, perhaps, a little too explicit. I may have used the term m***********. It was well-deserved, though.