Thursday, June 20, 2013

Public Speaking Skills: How to Introduce Yourself at a Seminar

This article is the first of four blog posts on presentation skills, specifically how to give a good self introduction. This post deals with general advice. Please see the other articles for how to give self introductions during Persuasive Talks, Job Talks or Teaching Seminars.
public speaking skills

The typical audience pays the most attention in the beginning and the end of a talk. Therefore, perfecting the beginning of your talk can really pay off. Most of the time your seminar will begin when someone introduces you. However, sometimes you will be required to introduce yourself and your presentation.

A lot rides on your self introduction: It is often the first impression you will make with your audience. Luckily like most skills, public speaking skills, including how to give a great self-introduction, can be learned. Here is a brief tutorial and example of how to give a great self introduction that is sure to impress.

Pick the Correct Length of Time 

Too long and you waste the audience's time. Too short and the audience is unoriented. In general your introduction should be under 30 seconds. This is not a time to rattle off your entire resume.  Or regale people about your weekend escapades. Always remember your audience is made of busy people. They took time out of their day to come watch you talk. Respect that time by not wasting it.

Decide how to Handle Questions

Decide ahead of time and state in your introduction if you will allow interruptions during your talk, or if you would rather questions be held for the end of your seminar. Either way, make sure you budget your time so that there is time for questions. Budget about 15-20% of your allotted seminar time for questions. This means that for an hour time slot, you should budget 10 minutes for questions and 45-50 minute for the seminar. Or for a 15 minute time slot this means that you should budget 2-3 minutes for questions and 13 minutes for your talk.

Identify the Goal of your Seminar

Now before you can formulate the rest of your self-introduction you must  identify the goal of your talk. There are three main categories of talks in academic/research setting, 1) The Job Seminar 2) The Teaching Seminar 3) The Persuasive Seminar. Each of these seminars has very different goals. Identify which category your seminar fits in best:

1) The Job SeminarIf your seminar is a job talk, your goal is to look impressive, qualified and professional.

2) Teaching Seminar: If your seminar is primarily for educational purposes, your goals are to inspire, inform and educate your audience.

3) The Persuasive Seminar: If your seminar is a "call to action" or "sales pitch", your goals are to persuade, motivate and befriend.

Note: Your seminar may fall into more than one category but there should be one that fits best. Identify it and and follow it to the corresponding The Job SeminarTeaching Seminar, or The Persuasive Seminar posts, where I will discuss how to choose material and met your individual goals.

General Tips

Here are a few tips to make sure your delivery goes well.

  • Smile. If you are not happy to be there why would you expect your audience to be happy? So be happy, or at least pretend - smile.
  • Be professional. Dress appropriately. Keep your jokes and anecdotes clean and non-offensive. If you can't, do not tell any.
  • Be yourself. Be as normal as possible. Giving a seminar is just like having a really lop-sided conversation. Gesture, move, smile, laugh at yourself if things go awry.
  • Have fun. Giving a seminar is a fantastic chance to make a good impression. Enjoy yourself and the opportunity.

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