Speaking in Acdemic Contexts

Presenting a seminar paper

How to present a seminar paper. (Wallace, 1980, pp. 209-210)

It can be very boring to listen to something read aloud. Therefore what you must do is follow the following points:

  1. Decide on a time limit for your talk. Tell your audience what it is. Stick to your time limit. This is very important.
  2. Write out your spoken presentation in the way that you intend to say it. This means that you must do some of the work of writing the paper again, in a sense. Written language is different from spoken language (See Speaking: Presentation Language). Your seminar presentation will probably take less time than the written paper it is based on and you cannot summarise on your feet.
  • Concentrate only on the main points. Ignore details. Hammer home the essence of your argument. If necessary find ways of making your basic points so that your audience will be clear about what they are.
  • Try to make your presentation lively and interesting. This does not mean telling jokes and anecdotes. But if you can think of interesting or amusing examples to illustrate your argument, use them.
  • Write out everything you have to say, including examples etc. Rehearse what you are going to say until you are happy with it.
  • When you know exactly what you are going to say, reduce it to outline notes . Rehearse your talk again, this time form the outline notes. Make sure you can find your way easily from the outline notes to the full notes, in case you forget something.
  1. In the seminar, speak from the outline notes. But bring both sets of notes and your original paper to the meeting.
  2. Look at your audience when you are speaking. Use this technique: First read the appropriate part of your notes silently. Then look up at your audience and say what you have to say. Never speak while you are still reading. While you look at your audience, try to judge what they are thinking. Are they following you? You will never make contact with your audience if your eyes are fixed on the paper in front of you.
  3. Make a strong ending. One way of doing this is to repeat your main points briefly and invite questions or points of view.

Remember that listening is very different from reading. Something that is going to be listened to has therefore to be prepared in a very different way from something that is intended to be read. See:Speaking: Presentation Language