Seminars are important • They provide a way to communicate about your research • They are a key element to getting jobs • As your career progresses, seminars help establish your reputation • As your career progresses, requests to give seminars are a signal of your accomplishment • They provide a way to receive feedback on your work • It is “quick”, sometimes useful • Reach a wide variety of specialties • So an ability to give good seminars is important
Some Mechanics • Put together computer-based presentation slides; it is the norm now for professional presentations. • But be prepared, a few venues might not have computers or projectors. • Some people think what software you use matters, but most people don’t care. • Have back-up copies, and make sure the software is on the computer – one advantage of PDF presentations • On your computer, if you are using your own • On a thumb drive • Email yourself a copy to an accessible account, so you can always access it • Look at the audience, not the screen, computer or projector
Preparing for the seminar • You should be prepared • Practice on your own, and before a friendly audience • An “informal” seminar to other grad students • A “more formal” seminar for your department • Don’t just practice the words • Practice and adjust the organization and tempo • Be ready to change the presentation from what you learn by giving it. Things that might change • Slides • Words • Style
Your slides • Keep them professional • No “cute” pictures • Norm now seems to be mostly plain, black text, white background • Keep the font and content readable • No unreadable tables (I’ll give some examples) • Font appropriate for the size of the room and the screen. Try to use a clear font, like Calibri • Have an appropriate number for the time frame • Time will usually go fast, unless the seminar is going poorly – then time will go slowly
Your Slides (continued) • Every bullet point on the slide should have a point • Think about what you want the audience to learn from each slide • Try to keep one idea per slide (obviously I don’t do this when teaching). Making them readable with a large font helps with this. • Don’t use too fancy animations • Things “flying in” quickly becomes distracting, and (I think) is inappropriate for professional presentations • Fade in or simple animations like wipe tend to work better
Graphs • MUST be readable • Often graphs made for papers don’t work in presentations; you may need to redo them • Use text boxes for labels • Make sure axis labels are readable • If you will not use the graph, and not talk about it, don’t include it. • Rarely should there be more than one graph per slide as they are too hard to read • Colors are important to differentiate lines (it is easier to refer to a color) but make sure they are visible. No pale yellow (yellow)
Tables • Tables made for papers are rarely appropriate for presentations • Redo your tables, including only what you want to talk about • The font in tables should be at least 20 point (this is 28 point; this is 20 point) • Use bright colors to bring attention to key elements of a tables
During the talk • Pay attention to the time • Don’t spend too much time up front, so you have to rush the conclusions and message • Leave plenty of time for questions and suggestions from the audience • For a 60 minute presentation, plan on 45 minutes • Let the audience know if you want questions during the talk • Clarifying questions are always in order • But content questions, suggestions and challenges can wait to the end
During the talk (continued) • Be flexible • Be prepared to skip some slides if things are progressing too slowly • Have a couple of extra to lengthen the talk if needed • End a few minutes early rather than going too long • 60 minute presentations cannot be condensed to a 20 minute talk at a meeting. For short presentations, the point is to convince the audience to read your paper. • For 90 minute presentations (norm for job market talks) add more detail, and present key elements of derivation, empirics or whatever to go about minutes.
During the talk (continued) • Control the presentation, it is your talk • If questions take it off track, move it back on • Be prepared to ask people to hold questions to later • Be prepared to suggest that you would like to discuss the point with the questioner after the talk
Content • Long introductions are almost always a bad idea • Save the time for substance • Literature reviews are not needed, except perhaps a key citation or two for context • The focus of the introduction is your research question, why the question and answer are important, and what your answer will be • Don’t be mysterious – let the audience know what you research, what you find, and why, early on in the talk • Then, give the substance of how you do it.
Dos • Identify your main point (finding, importance) and state it up front and succinctly. • Repeat your main point, and summarize your findings, at the end. • Speak clearly and loudly. • Know your audience. • Don’t show your back, don’t talk to the screen. • Use a laser pointer if you want to refer to a specific place on a slide. • Stick to your time limit. • Practice several times before the presentation.
Dos (continued) • Put an appropriate amount of information on a slide. • Use bullet points, not full sentences. • Don’t crowd slides. • Don’t read slides (see how I violate these rules all the time). • Make sure you know how to use the equipment. • Get to the #1 important contribution as quickly as possible. • Give people time to digest your slides. • Listen carefully to questions, but think before answering. • Keep presentations and answers simple.
Don’ts • Make the motivation too long • Have a long literature review • Give extensive previews of the results • Give useless context • If your paper is primarily empirical, skip the theory • Do not discuss preliminary or interim results, get to the final results • Give an answer to a question if you don’t know it. • Speak softly and tentatively. • Go over your time limit.