Express Yourself – How to Conduct a Seminar

Conducting a seminar is a great way to communicate your ideas or introduce new technologies. It is useful to know some guidelines when you have to conduct a seminar. I understood the importance of this both as a attendee and a presenter myself.

Preparing your presentation

A successful seminar is the result of careful preparation of your speech and your presentation material. Here is how you can do it.

Research your subject

If you are called to speak on a topic, probably thats because you are already have some knowledge of it. Even so, you need to reference from at least 2 different books. This helps you address and include points you have not thought about. It also helps you determine a flow for the seminar.

Preparing the presentation

Include a presentation. Presentations help the audience to understand the underlying points that the speaker has to say especially if the subject is rather vague.

The presentation should have an Introduction and a conclusion. The introduction can include a summary of the topic and a brief overview of what the speaker will be saying for the rest of the duration of the seminar.

The speaker should determine how long the seminar will take and accordingly create the presentation slides. Thumb of rule is approximately 2-3 minutes per slide if the speaker intends to skim through the slides quickly. And around 5 minutes per slide if the speaker intends to explain the slides with small examples. For example, if the seminar is supposed to be 40 minutes long, there should be around 16 slides if the speaker intends to quickly skim the contents of the slide.

Make sure the content has a “flow” to it. By flow I mean that the content that comes later can depend on the content which comes in first, but not the other way around. This is a common mistake. The speaker tends to explains a point that should have come in later, in the beginning itself. This tends to confuse the attendees because they have not gained enough insight into the topic to be able to grasp the new information.

The Look and feel of the presentation is extremely important. Avoid too flashy and too plain presentations. A presentation with extraordinary text effects look naive and detracts from the importance of what the speaker has to say.

At the same time, avoid plain presentations as the attendees perceive that the speaker has probably not prepared enough. Use well designed presentation templates which are freely available or at a low cost. The text size of primary points should be uniform as far as possible. Secondary points should have a smaller font size to show its reduced significance. Secondary points are indented under primary points.

Include pictures or graphs instead of text wherever possible. Management Guru CK Prahalad, in a seminar on India’s innovation possibilities, explained the efficacy of the Jaipur Foot in a picture that showed a physically challenged person running with the Jaipur foot. Though the audience had already heard about the Foot, they were visibly amazed and touched as they saw the picture.

The way text is arranged on the presentation slides is also important. Speakers sometimes make the mistake of putting up points and their respective explanations also. Not only does this practice increase the number of slides, but it is a sure shot way to lull the audience into sleep. So thumb of rule is to use minimum text, and make sure whatever text you put up is a point, not an explanation of a point. If you intend to give out detailed points for reference, do not include them in the slide. It just makes them cluttered and anyway the audience just cannot keep up with the stream of points you list out to them during the seminar. Use handouts instead for such points.

It is very important to include within the seminar content, examples and case studies. Examples illustrate the speaker’s point in a more interesting way which the audience is immediately able to relate to. Examples and case studies have the power to touch an audience, relate to similar experiences and thereby be eager to learn more. Sometimes small jokes too make the seminar livelier.

Handouts

The speaker should prepare handouts as well, especially if the audience is small. Handouts will contain all main points of the seminar as well as those detailed points which cannot be included in the seminar slides but are useful for reference later. Include within the handout, a list of any reference books used to prepare for the seminar. This helps the audience to read or followup on the same topic later.

Listen to your voice

The speaker should listen to his seminar using a Dictaphone( or tape recorder) and play it back. It is possible to immediately detect the parts of the seminar that could be corrected or which don’t sound right. If the seminar sounds interesting to the speaker, chances are that others would also feel so.

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