Seminars are an important part of the academic program you are studying. In at least
one of these, you will be asked to give a presentation and lead a group in discussing
a theme or topic given to you by your lecturer. Usually the presentation will be
based on something like a journal article or other text chosen for its relevance
to the module you are studying.
The purpose of the seminar is to give you an opportunity to explore and examine a
theme or topic in reasonable depth and then to give a presentation on it to the group.
This provides you with the opportunity of practicing presenting to other people.
After giving your presentation you will manage the discussion that follows - by asking
and responding to questions, controlling the group - to practice your critical, creative,
organizational and managerial skills.You, the group members and your tutor may then
assess your presentation.
The key to giving a good seminar is thorough preparation beforehand. Whichever course
you are on, you will always be given guidance before being asked to present and lead
a seminar. If you feel unsure and feel you haven't been given enough advice on how
to go about your presentation, ask for help.Your lecturer will give you specific
instructions on the way s/he wants you to present to your group. Make sure you follow
The following are general guidelines to give you an idea of the type of thing you
will be required to do.
You will probably be given an article from a journal and asked to make a presentation
based on it to the other students in the seminar group. To do this you might be given
the following guidance:
The student should present their article to the group using the following format.
Provide a full reference to the source of your presentation:
The problem - what is the problem?
Introduction - what does the literature survey tell you about the author's frame
of reference? What are the author's hypotheses?
Method - What techniques are used? How adequate are they? - Are they obvious measures
of reliability/validity? - What are the major dependent and independent variables?
Subjects - how was the sample size/ bias /matching arrived at?
Results - what statistical techniques were used? How are the results analyzed?
Discussion and Conclusions - summary of findings - major and subsidiary
Evaluation of the article - strong points/other points - things you agree with /disagree
Seminar Presentation Self Assessment Checklist
Things to consider
Preparation (of handouts, visual aids, overheads) Are they necessary?
Clear and useful
Are objectives clear?
Appropriate to audience
Speech Clearly articulate
Use appropriate intonation
Audience contact What kind (questions, activities, use of names, eye contact with
Mannerisms Are they distracting?
Use of appropriate humour?
Response to feedback
Provide in a clearly presented way
With other course
Previous papers in same course
Good summary of major points
Make applications/implications clear where appropriate
After you have given your presentation and led the seminar, you will be given an
assessment of how well you dealt with the content and how well you presented it.
Any effective talk must do three things:
(1) communicate your arguments and ideas,
(2) persuade your audience that they are true, and
(3) be interesting and entertaining.
(1) Give an opening statement to familiarize the audience with your subject matter.
What is your key message? Can you write it down as a single sentence?
(2) Speak slowly, clearly, and loud enough to be heard by all.
(3) Remember the 5WH's: who, what, why, when, where, and how.
(4) Summarize your talk at the end in a few sentences.
Sound enthusiastic. A good presenter downloads information at a sensible rate, pauses,
and uses voice and body language to good effect. A brilliant speaker opens a two-way
channel with the audience, and is sensitive to, and can adapt to, the non-verbal
messages coming back from the audience. You need to look at us, even in the dark:
eye contact is essential, or we think you have lost interest in us.
If you can - move. A static presentation read from a lectern is safe: it is rarely
memorable. Try being brave, especially if you are not tied to a fixed microphone.
Which presentations have you found memorable in the past? A dynamic interaction,
especially one supported by 'props', can be wonderfully persuasive - but do your
research first and don't try anything potentially career limiting, especially if
you have not practiced it first. You could try liberating yourself from the lectern
for question time at least.
If you can't answer a question, admit it, offer to find out and say when and how
you will respond. You could also try opening the issue to the floor: the chances
are that someone will know and come to your aid.
The most important part is the choice of your subject. Look through popular journals
such as Scientific American or, a bit more special, Physics Today. You may also be
able to talk about some research that you have participated in. Check with the instructor
as far ahead as possible whether your intended topic is suitable for this seminar.
Include one transparency or slide for the contents and one for the summary. Make
sure that the slides are readable for everybody. Check the size of the letters, do
not stand in front of the projector and make sure you know where a certain slide
is at a given time.
Prepare, practice and get feedback beforehand. Revise. Enjoy the talk and so shall
we: we're on your side. Be yourself. Find your own style. Be imaginative in your
use of support material. Many superb speakers are not technically brilliant, but
they compensate by taking pains to consider what the audience will enjoy, and find
both memorable and relevant. As a result, they outshine those with honed technique
but no empathy or rapport with their listeners. Prepare well, and then think not
so much of what you will say, but what the audience will hear. We will thank you
for your courtesy, and remember you with pleasure.