Graduate Seminar Suggestions
Barbara Jacak, January 1997
Here are some suggestions on putting together
an effective oral presentation.
I. Organization of a Talk
- Talk Outline:
useful to let the audience know what's coming and
let the speaker get warmed up.
What's the issue?
Why is it interesting?
- Body of the Talk:
- Experiment or method
How does this issue get addressed?
Describe the experiment or theoretical assumptions
How were the data analyzed/what theoretical techniques
What sources and magnitudes of uncertainty remain?
What's the answer?
What does it mean?
Interpret the results to form a physical picutre and
answer the question posed in the introduction.
Connect experiment and theory.
What did we learn?
Summarize the main point(s) of the talk and reiterate
II. A Few Hints:
- A good talk has only a few main points:
- If reviewing a topic or field, ask:
What is it about? Why is it interesting? What's the
current hot question?
- If reporting on your own research:
Why is it interesting? What did I do? What did I learn?
- It's better to choose fewer points and make sure your
audience really gets them.
- Don't go into too much detail!!
- Give only enough detail so the audience can understand
the answer and form an opinion as to whether it's
- When in doubt, prepare a reserve slide with all the details.
Show it only if asked a question about these details, or if
your audience looks very confused by your summary of how the
work was done.
- Talk to your audience:
- The speaker ALWAYS knows more about the subject than the
average audience member! The purpose of the talk is to teach
them about something they don't know and you do.
- Speak slowly and clearly and watch the faces of your audience
to see if they are following you. LOOK AT THE AUDIENCE, not
- Don't read your slides word for word.
- Don't stand between the audience and your slides.
- Must be legible even from the back of the room.
- No yellow pens! Orange is iffy.
- The slides should not be too busy. It is better to make
more slides with less material on each. Also avoid writing
whole sentences; the slides should be bullets or an outline
for what you plan to say.
- Estimate an average of 1 - 2 speaking minutes per slide.
- Practice your talk!
- This is extremely useful, no matter how experienced you are.
- It helps you get your story together and check the clarity
of your presentation. Also this lets you optimize the amount
of material for the time you have.
- Remember to ask yourself "So What?" This keeps your talk interesting
III. Information sources for Nuclear and Particle Physics, and Astrophysics and
- General interest science periodicals:
Dicover, Science News, etc.
- Review Articles:
Annual Review of Nuclear Science
Reviews of Modern Physics
from the "private collections" of people
working in the field.
- Letter journals:
Phys. Rev. Letters
- All the details:
Phys. Rev. C,D
Zeitschift fuer Physik
IV. For this course:
- Aim for about 35 minutes of speaking time.
- Remember to make and turn in your abstract in the week before
your speaking day.
- Be sure to visit with one of the professors to go through
your material/plans or outline about a week before your talk.