Notes on Good Seminar Presentations

Some of you have asked what is required for the Outside Seminar Critiques. As is noted in the Class Syllabus, each student must attend a professional seminar on campus, then turn in a critiques (2 page maximum; typewritten; 1.5 or double spaced) of the seminar indication the date, time, location, speaker, and topic. You should provide a discription of what was good and what was not good about the presentation style, organization, and use of visual or audio aids. This exercise is meant to give you practice in critically listening to and evaluation the science of other researchers.

Some of the elements that we recently discussed regarding good scientific writing also apply to oral presentations. Here is the list of the ‘ethos’ elements that we discussed:

  • Proper use of language style
  • Use of appropriate terms and jargon
  • Demonstration of current knowledge/recognition of work of others
  • Experiments are carefully designed
  • Inclusion and explanation of appropriate controls
  • Results are not over-interpreted and are put into context of current knowledge
  • Limitations to methods and knowledge are acknowledged
  • Portrays confidence but not arrogance

Here are some other points to keep in mind as you listen to the seminar:

  • Proper use of language style
  • Did the speaker properly introduce the objective and/or hypotheses that drove the research?
  • Were the tables and figures well laid out and explained?
    • Too much material on each slide?
    • Inappropriate use of colors (hard to see)?
    • Size of symbols OK?
  • Was there a logical progression to the presentation
    • Was there an effective transition from one slide to the next?
  • Speaker's style
    • Was the pace of the speech too slow or too fast?
    • Did the speaker's voice project throughout the room?
    • Did the speaker talk to audience or to "the screen" (i.e., effective eye contact)?
    • Did the speaker use the pointer effectively?
  • Overall effectivenes
    • Did you leave the seminar feeling you had effectively received the important "take home messages"?

Some of these points are obviously more subjective than others but do your best to listen carefully and take good notes(but don't write down everything!). Also, Keep all of these things in mind as you prepare your own presentations later in the semester!