Tips On Presenting in a Seminar-Based Class

You’re in a class that is seminar style. This means that the prof is not going to stand up every week and lecture. Instead, viagra each member of the class will be presenting and facilitating class discussion. Usually this is done with each student being assigned a chapter in one of the required textbooks. What is the best way to approach this if you’ve never done it before? Here are a few Cheese-Wearing tips:

1. Don’t just read your assigned chapter. Let’s say you are to present on chapter three of a book. The arguments in chapter three are probably built upon the foundations laid in the previous chapters, so it’s important to read the previous chapters carefully, looking for key definitions and for the methodology that is being employed. Don’t rely on the fact that other students are going to present on chapters one and two. You also may have to read the chapters proceeding your chapter to know where the argument is going, especially if the author is presenting one side of the argument in one chapter, and another side of the argument in the next.

2. Don’t criticize what you don’t understand. Part of presenting in a seminar-based format is to offer a critique. But often times critique and criticism are confused. You can’t critique what you don’t understand, and if you try, your critique becomes a misplaced criticism, that is more likely to make you look silly rather than intelligent in front of the professor. It is okay to frame your final analysis as ‘questions you have’ rather than a sustained critique. Doing it this way shows that you are making an effort to engage and understand the text.

3. It’s okay to look at other sources. If you don’t understand what is being said by the author go and read what other people have said about the material you are presenting. Scholarly Book reviews are great for this. Look for a minimum of two reviews that generally agree with the author, and two that generally disagree with the author. It’s okay to use their arguments to form your critique/questions/analysis so long as you cite your sources.

4. If you still don’t understand, it’s okay to have a chat with your professor. You’ve read the chapter. You’ve read the rest of the book. You’ve read what other people have said about the book, and you still don’t get it. At this point it’s okay to make an appointment with your professor to chat about the chapter. They want to help you give a good presentation. Bad presentations make for painful group discussions, and don’t help the class learn. (The key here is to do all your reading first. If you just go to the prof without having actually read the material, they may not be as helpful).

5. Use whatever aids will help you communicate the material. Maybe do a powerpoint. Maybe do a handout. Maybe do a handout that has fill-in-blanks. Write out your presentation essay-style as a way of bringing your thoughts together, and then prepare lecture notes based on your essay.

6. Don’t wait until the night before to start working your presentation.

Do you have any tips to add to the list?

  • “Use whatever aids will help you communicate the material.”

    One of my students this week included small candy bars with his handouts. Shamelessly including a manipulation of positive mood can be an effective way of influencing attention and evaluation in your audience. 🙂