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Chapter 2 : Giving a Seminar: Suggestions for Graduate Students
Expert public speakers may not be able to tell a person why they succeed, and eager advisers may not know what they’re talking about (a caveat to the readers of this essay). What follows is one person’s opinion, not the final answer. It’s a collection of ideas to consider while developing a style of one's own. The opinions presented are strongly held but change regularly. This is intended for graduate students, but all are welcome. Giving a seminar (like writing and teaching) is a peripheral area of the scientific endeavor that requires work and dedication. People tend to remember the main impact of whatever happens at a seminar. This makes public speaking a potentially dangerous way to communicate. The suggestions for seminar presentation are based on some philosophical considerations. These principles may be helpful even if one disregard the rest of the advice (to follow) and implement them in the own way. The magnitude of the pain inflicted by an incompetent seminar-giver can be estimated by considering the product of the time spent (usually an hour) times the size of the audience. The most entertaining part of attending a seminar is having a chance to think about something new—to try out the own brain on an unfamiliar puzzle or set of questions. The philosophy section of the chapter describes the audience as a bunch of apprehensive travelers who took on the risk of a journey.