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How to take good seminars?

 

Outline of a typical presentationThe first slide has the title, the date of the paper and/or the talk, and your affiliation. If you have a co-author, this is the time to make that clear.
Try to provide a perspective (a puzzle, an empirical regularity, an historical example, a casual observation, a curious gap in the literature, etc.) that you can use as a "hook" to get your audience's attention.

Give an outline of the presentation.It's not necessary to read from the slide each of the steps of your talk (e.g., literature review, model, data, results, conclusion)--most of those present in the audience can read very well without your help. However, if you want to emphasize a particular part of your talk (e.g.. "I really want to get to the results so I'll skip quickly over the model during my talk. For those interested, the details are contained in my paper anyhow"), point this out right away.

Don't spend too much time on the literature review.The point of the review is to put your paper in perspective. Avoid getting into a long argument about whether you've cited the right group of papers or whether you have misrepresented a literature. You want to talk about your own work, not someone else's.

Present your main contributions right away. It's extremely important that you emphasize your contribution and distinguish what you've done that adds to the literature. You may want to repeat your list of contributions at the end of the talk, but don't try to keep the audience in suspense! Let them know your contribution immediately. This helps the audience focus on how to assess your paper and means that even those in the audience who leave early will have a good idea of what you want them to take away from your talk.

If you have a model in your paper that is involved and difficult to follow, try to present a stripped down version in the presentation that you can use to develop the intuition for the main findings. Then you can say that in the paper you show that the intuition extends to a richer setting.

If you put up a slide with an equation, make sure that you read through it so that the audience can follow the notation that you are using. If it's not standard (e.g., "F is a production function with inputs of capital and labour") try to give an economic interpretation of the equation.

If you put up a graph, make sure that it's clear what's on the two axes and that you describe what the graph demonstrates.

If you put up a table, make sure that you take one entry and explain clearly what it means in detail and then briefly indicate how to read the remaining entries.

You should have some planned 'slack' in your talk. That is material that you don't plan to cover but that you can include if for some reason you receive fewer or briefer questions than usual. Also, there may be parts of the talk where you anticipate that some audiences will want additional clarification and/or detail. Have it ready, but don't plan to use it unless it comes up in the talk.

Always keep your eye on the time remaining. If you start to fall behind in your planned pace you should try to adjust your talk by eliminating the least important remaining parts of your talk. Always aim to finish a few minutes early.

End with your conclusion slide. If you have started or plan to begin related research, mention it. Then prepare to kick back and think beyond your paper if that's what the audience wants.

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