By Brian Simanek
This semester, my university is beginning a regular graduate student seminar. All of the talks are given by graduate students and are intended to be accessible by anyone who has completed their qualifying exams. Last week, the inaugural talk was about the student’s own research and included many of his own results. My talk is scheduled in a few weeks and will be an introduction to potential theory in the complex plane. This is a set of tools that is very useful in my research, but the talk itself will contain only textbook material and none of my own results.
While preparing my presentation, there were a few guiding principals to which I forced myself to adhere. First, for an informal seminar such as this, I thought a blackboard talk would be more appropriate than a slides talk. This format slows the pace of the talk and makes the presentation more like a class lecture, which will encourage the audience to try to learn the material as I present it. Second, I tried to include as many pictures as possible. A week after the talk, some people may only remember the pictures I show them, so whatever I can communicate through pictures is more likely to stick in the audience’s mind. Third, I will try to keep it short. A talk can be too short if not enough material is introduced to make it interesting, but in research level talks, the last third of the talk (approximately) is usually very technical and usually only accessible to experts in the field. I will avoid going into details that are not of general interest and I plan to present more ideas than theorems.
The most important thing when giving any talk is to know your audience.