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Article Summary

Art of Conducting a Seminar

Seminars are quite indispensable in any academic setup especially, in the field of higher education. The main objective of a seminar is to share the result of original research or advanced study through oral or written reports. The fields of science and technology are making headway at a rapid pace. Hence, it has become obligatory to spread the knowledge in these fields and seminars help in cross-fertilisation of ideas.

Organizing: A seminar is a small group discussion. It has an objective, a lead speaker and a number of participants. The lead presenter talks about the need for the study, methods of investigation, findings and conclusions. It is followed by a lively discussion that stimulates the thoughts of the participants. A seminar can be of one-day or two-day duration and can have single or multiple sessions. Proper planning about selection of the topic, venue, date and time, number of sessions, lead speaker, participants and the required arrangements help to conduct the seminars in an effective manner. Usually, there will be a coordinator, who makes the arrangements, and passes on the information through circulars or brochures. This communication enables the participants to know the particulars of the seminar.

Planning: The lead presenter should plan the seminar well in advance to avoid any kind of confusion. The first step in the planning stage is to choose a theme/topic that interests you. The topic should be of interest to the audience too because seminar is basically a small group discussion which involves the participation of all the participants. The seminar can be on a current topic of research or on your own project work. The content, which is to be presented, should be decided because it may not be possible to present all the information available in the set time limit. So, you have to also see the scope of the seminar and determine how many details you will be able to cover in the prescribed time.

Structuring: After selecting a topic, the next step is to organise the main points in a very neat and clear manner. The topic should have an introduction, body and conclusion.  There should be a smooth flow of ideas and coherence should be maintained throughout. These three sections should be logically connected. Otherwise, the audience may not evince interest and the main purpose of the seminar will be lost. Time management is very essential. Never exceed the scheduled time.

Audience analysis: It is desirable to make an audience analysis before you plan a seminar. You should know your audience well, their educational background, work experience etc. It will give you insights as to how much information can be shared on your topic and also will help you to make the presentation lively and interesting.

 

Tone and Appearance: The tone of a seminar should be serious and formal because it is generally a gathering of highly qualified people. So, there is no place for humour in an academic seminar. Next comes the question of attire. Usually, the dress code is specified on most occasions. Even otherwise, it should be very formal. Flashy clothes with distracting colours have to be completely avoided. It is advisable to get yourself familiarized with the room, seating arrangement, lighting and equipment that you are going to use. This will help in avoiding embarrassing situations such as a sudden power failure when you are making a PowerPoint presentation. To avoid such awkward moments, the presenter should have a hardcopy as an alternative.

Introduction: The introduction should be made in a brief statement that arouses the curiosity of the audience. It has to be striking and keep the audience enthused. If you plan to make a PowerPoint presentation, you may begin by showing a relevant photo or a picture that substantiates your topic since visual aids make a powerful impact on their minds. However, never bring in irrelevant visuals as they mar the presentation.

Body: This is the main part of your seminar presentation. You have to demonstrate here that whatever you are presenting is original research work and also state its relevance to the audience. If you can do it successfully, you will grab their attention. There are several tools available on the PowerPoint to make this part appealing. You may insert charts, graphs, pictures, photos or objects to lend a touch of authenticity to the presentation. Label them neatly and also cite references if any. However, choose the visuals carefully and use them sparingly and judiciously or else it is likely to bore the audience. Avoid animations as they do not fit into a professional seminar. You have to discuss briefly the hypothesis, research methodology, experimental design, tools, results and findings. Make a critical analysis of the entire topic. Prepare thoroughly in order to hold the attention of the audience.

Conclusion: This part is a brief summary of key points. Therefore, make it succinct. Bring the topic to a logical conclusion by giving the gist of the entire presentation in as few terms as possible. Avoid lengthy sentences and do not repeat the points. Give the essence of your paper and you may also suggest future prospects of your research and further scope of its application. Make it as memorable as possible because, many a time, the participants are likely to remember only the conclusion.

Question-Answer Session:  Invite questions from the audience. This is the most crucial part of the presentation. So, handle it carefully. Allot at least five minutes for the question-answer session. Take the questions which are genuine and answer them satisfactorily. There might be some questions that are quite annoying. Nevertheless, do not show displeasure or irritation. Simply put them off by saying, ”We shall come to this question later…..” /  ”This is an interesting question, shall we discuss it after sometime”. Be calm and composed and stay focused while answering. If you do not know the answer, say politely that you will get back with the information. If the question is not framed properly, seek clarification. You may also anticipate some pertinent questions and prepare answers for them in advance.

Practical Hints:
•    State the objectives
•    Define the purpose
•    Display professionalism
•    Rehearse well
•    Speak with clarity
•    Maintain proper eye contact
•    Use appropriate gestures
•    Have good body language
•    Modulate your voice well
•    Wear a smile and a confident look