Tips on Presenting a Good Seminar

1. Selection of a seminar topic

  • Find something that interests you and something that you want to learn more about.
  • Collect several leading references and read over them in detail to make sure that the subject will be interesting to you and your audience.
  • Check to see that no comprehensive reviews have appeared in the literature on your topic for at least three (3) years.
  • Write a one (1) page summary of the proposed topic and take it to your research advisor for his/her opinion of your choice.
  • Once you have agreed on a good topic, let other faculty in your division (i.e. A, B, I, O or P Chern) read over your summary and add their evaluation of your topic selection.
  • With this support for your general topic in hand, go to the seminar coordinator in charge of your division (Quiñones A, l, P Chem; Soderquist (B, O Chem)) for his approval.
  • Go to the graduate office with your summary to notify the Graduate Coordinator (Dr. Carballeira) of your choice to obtain his approval.

2. Preparing your Abstract

  • Ask your lab-mates, friends or faculty for copies of previous abstracts of good seminars in your general area, so that you can get the general idea of what is included and how it should be organized and formatted.
  • Go to the library and familiarize yourself with how to locate relevant the literature. Learn how to search the literature for related articles (On-line searching, Chem Abstracts, SCI, etc.)
  • Once you have located the articles you need, make copies (2) of each (one for the workplace (UPR) and one for home) so that you will never lose an article you need.
  • Get organized, putting all your articles in a file (one home, one work) for easy reference.
  • Select the best order for the presentation and organize your abstract around this organization.
  • Decide what you need to say about each article to deve!op your talk and write this text in the language in which you feel most comfortable (e.g. Spanish, Chinese, English).
  • Once you are happy with the way the abstract reads, carefully translate the text to English. Use your own words. Never copy material directly from the articles unless you wish to quote others for including a specific statement. If you do this, you must offset this in quotes or italics:

    Topological strategies are those aimed at the retrosynthetic reduction of connectivity – E. J. CoreyH. Construct your drawings, tables, figures and schemes carefufly. Make sure that they are clear and balanced. Reproduce a flgure from an articleonly as a last resort! You have to obtain written permission from the author (i. e. FAX or letter approval) for anything you copy from an article directly.

  • Follow standard conventions for references: Consult articles in a standard quality journal for punctuation, format and abbreviations (e.g. J.Am. Chem. Soc. 1998, 122, 1234.) . Find examples for both articles and book references and be consistent throughout.
  • Check and double-check the abstract for errors (spelling, punctuation, context, subject/verb agreement. etc.). Ask your labmates and research advisor to read over the text to locate errors and/or organizational problems to get a document that “reads well”.
  • Make sure your announcements are up and your abstract is delivered to faculty at least one (1) week before your talk.

3. Preparing your Slides

  • It takes one to two minutes to discuss a slide, depending upon the amount of material included, Therefore, you should plan to have 30-50 slides for your talk.
  • Each slide should be well thought out, with a specific reason for including it and in the position that it will presented.
  • The slides should be clearly constructed for easy viewing by the audience.
  • You should avoid textual material whenever possible so that the audience is simply reading the slides and not listening to you.
  • Pictures are worth a thousand words. You can include data on the slides so that you need not memorize these numbers, but you should avoid an excess of text. The slides should look clean and neat.
  • Acknowledgments should be given to the sponsoring agency (e.g. NIH-MBRS) and your research director who is paying for your support, helpful friends and lab-mates who helped with your abstract editing and presentation, and the audience for listening. Avoid being excessive.

4. Your presentation

  • Rehearse your talk many times. Use friends, labmates, spouses, parents and anyone else that will listen to you for an audience. The more practice, the better. Practice establishing good eye contact with the audience ( I select three (3) members of the audience (left, right and center) and deliberately switch from looking at one to the other as I speak.
  • Practice voice projection. You have to be heard to be understood. Speak to the back of the room.
  • Pay attention to the time. The talk should be 50-55 min. when delivered. You may speed up because of nervousness at your actual seminar, so practice slowing down when you are nervous so that you don’t leave out important details in your seminar.
  • On delivery day, dress well. A well-dressed speaker gives a better appearance.
  • Make sure that all of the details and arrangements of the room are set up properly (projector, room, etc). Leave nothing to chance.
  • Get there early to check the arrangements.

5. Questions

  • Faculty questions can be diverse and can vary in scope and topic. It is not possible to anticipate every question, but some are predictable.
  • You should repeat the question out loud to the audience so that you have time to think about it before answering. The audience will stay interested only if they are made to feel a part of the process.
  • If you don’t know the answer, don’t hesitate to say so. The worst thing is to make up some answer and give the audience the impression that you understand something that you don’t.
  • Let the professor help you by listening to his responses carefully. Never smile or laugh out of nervousness because- it will give the questioner the impression that you think that it is a silly question.
  • If you are told the answer and feel that you understand it well, explain this concept to the audience after you learn it. If you don’t understand, ask the questioner to explain it to everyone.