Directions on attending, chairing and giving a talk at KCPC meetings

Two talks are presented at Monday morning meetings, one in which the speaker presents their work, and one in which the speaker presents an interesting paper form the literature (Journal Club). Here are some guidelines on preparing these talks, and on attending and chairing a meeting.

Presenting your work

  • Time: Aim for a talk lasting 25 minutes, and allow for another 5 minutes for questions.
  • Intro: Introduce your field, because the audience is made up of people working in different fields. As in a standard seminar, start your talk by introducing the background and the motivation: why is the project interesting to you, and why the audience should find it interesting. If you are a beginner, these slides might be difficult to prepare, so make sure you dedicate sufficient time to them, and ask for advice to your colleagues or supervisor.
  • Be organised: it is your responsibility to turn up well before your talk, set-up the projector and the computer, and have them all ready to go by 9.30. For more info on giving talks, see “Advice to beginners”.

“Journal Club” - Presenting a paper

  • Time: Aim for a talk lasting 20-25 minutes, and allow for another 5-10 minutes for questions. Since you are planning to speak for quite a while, don’t pick a short note or letter that can be summarised in 3 minutes, unless you present it together with a few other articles that have a common thread, or by the same group.
  • Intro: start by saying a few words on the authors of the paper; identify the group leader (often the corresponding author), where they work, how large the group is, what their group is expert at; put their work in context, e.g. “they pioneered this technique, having started work on it in 1990”, or “they are small but active group working in Melbourne on…”; most of this info is easily accessible on the group’s website, from which you might also want to get photos or other useful material.
  • Topic: pick a paper that is likely to be of interest to most of the audience; articles published in very high-profile journals, such as Nature or Science, or review articles in multidisciplinary areas are more likely to be of general interest. Some journals provide already-made ppt slides containing the paper’s figures.
  • Motivate: tell us why you chose this paper, what’s new about it, and why we should be interested.
  • Be concise: spare unnecessary details, and focus on the aspects of the paper that are fundamental and new.
  • Impact: if the paper is a few years old, it could be interesting to find on ISI info on its citation record, to give an idea of how much impact the paper has had in the field.
  • Be organised: it is your responsibility to turn up well before your talk, set-up the projector and the computer, and have them all ready to go by 9.30. For more info on giving talks, see the Presentation tips page.
  • Questions: we expect a lively and interesting debate after each talk, so please come forward with questions and comments. Particularly students are strongly encouraged to ask questions.

Attending a meeting

  • Make a habit of turning up on time, preferably a few minutes early.
  • Pay attention to the content of the talk. If you get lost, try to get back into the talk at any later stage of it. A good trick to stay awake when the speaker is discussing esoteric minutiae is to take notes. Especially useful to jot down ideas that come to mind while hearing the talk, things that you could ask the speaker in question time, or ways to solve the problem being explained.
  • At the end of the talk, ask questions. It’s OK to admit that you don’t understand, or don’t know something; it’s not OK to just fall asleep and wait for the seminar to end. If you pay attention to the talk, you can also provide useful feedback to the speaker on any aspect their seminar (perhaps in private). You should feel a moral obligation to ask a question at the end of the talk, if it is in your field, and otherwise to just clarify any doubt you have in a field that is foreign to you.

Chairing a meeting

A chair is the host of the talk, is responsible for running the meeting smoothly, and on time, and making everyone feel relaxed. The chair should:

  • contact the speakers beforehand and help them with any technical difficulties;
  • find out what the talks will be about and think of a short introduction (e.g. “our first talk today is by John Doe, who is a summer student with Brian Hawkett, and will talk about the results of the first three weeks of his project on polymer colloids”);
  • start the meeting on time, at 9.30, or just after, allowing most of the people that have entered to sit down;
  • stand before the audience, demand silence, make your introduction, and sit down towards the front of the room;
  • if some technical difficulty occurs during the talk, be proactive in solving it, e.g. turn off lights if the slides are hard to see, provide a pointer, etc;
  • keep the talk to time, by telling the speaker when they’re running out of time; a good rule is to signal the speaker when there are three minutes left to the end of the talk; allow for at least 5 minutes questions;
  • at the end of the talk, lead the applause for the speaker, and ask for questions from the room;
  • if questions are slow to arise, ask the first question yourself; as the host you must show that you followed and attempted to understand the seminar;
  • point to the people in the audience as they raise their hand to ask questions, in the order that they requested it; and
  • lead the applause at the end of the questions.