Effective verbal communication in the basic biomedical sciences can be an essential ingredient of a successful career. The ability to communicate effectively can have a favorable impact on your career as a graduate student, postdoctoral fellow, or principal investigator.

What, then, are some of the factors that make for an interesting and effective seminar? Well, of course, you should have something worth talking about to an audience. Assuming this to be the case:

1. Assess your audience

Are they experts or novices in your field? The answer will determine how much introductory or background material to present and how much detail to go into during the seminar.

2. Organize your material logically

Often it is best to provide conclusions up front and then provide the evidence, rather than to present the seminar as a mystery with answers (e.g., "The butler did it") coming at the end. Will the audience stay...

3. Think carefully about your visual aids

Beware of complicated visuals with too many panels, colors, etc. Can you make your point with a simpler slide? Beware of using too many slides.

4. Practice, practice, practice

There is no substitute for practicing your presentation.

5. Finally, show some enthusiasm

If you aren't enthusiastic about your work, you can't expect the audience to be enthusiastic. During your presentation, speak to the audience, not to the screen.

Good luck with your next seminar!

- Paul M. Wassarman is chair of the Brookdale Department of Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City.

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