The content and presentation of research lectures

A post from one of my colleagues yesterday prompted me to think about how material should be presented in the kind of research lectures that are presented as part of seminar programmes, where speakers are invited to come to a university department or institution and give a talk (as opposed to conference presentations) . The difference between presenting a lecture to a department’s researchers, and presenting to a conference, is (usually) the expertise of the audience. The speaker can assume much more familiarity with the subject from a conference audience. However, when they give an invited talk to a department, they have to make allowances for the fact that their audience will be made up of a wide range of people working in different areas of the subject and with different levels of expertise and experience.  This means, for example, perhaps adding something about where the research impacts in other areas, or its wider relevance.

From my own experience, as a computational chemist working in solid state chemistry, if I give a talk of this kind I can’t just present lots of numbers, but instead, to make it interesting I have to show why the materials I’m modelling are important, and what their applications are.

Having heard many departmental research seminars over the years, I’m not sure how many speakers make this distinction. It may be tempting to dust off your last conference talk, but by making it more ‘user friendly’, the audience will no doubt appreciate it more!



One thought on “The content and presentation of research lectures”

  1. Ah! I see, a further distinction then between invited seminars (and more general audiences) and conference talks (more specialist audience). This makes a lot of sense 🙂

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