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Oral Communication Skills Workshop For Students In Engineering And Applied Science

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

ChE Poster Session

Tagged Division

Chemical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.955.1 - 13.955.15



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Paper Authors

author page

William Krantz National University of Singapore

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Oral Communication Skills Workshop for Students in Engineering and Applied Science


This paper provides an overview of a two-week non-credit workshop that focuses on the skills needed for effective formal oral and poster technical presentations. It is required for all graduate students in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the National University of Singapore. Special considerations are a relatively large number of students (45-75) from diverse cultural backgrounds, many of whom do not have English as their first language. The Workshop involves a four-hour overview focusing on the organization and style components of both formal oral and poster technical presentations. Examples of both a PowerPoint® and poster presentation are given to illustrate effective communication skills. Each student gives a short presentation that is digitally recorded and critiqued by the Workshop Coordinator and seven other students. Subsequently the Workshop Coordinator discusses the digital recording with each student via a 30-minute one-on-one consultation. All Workshop materials including the digital recordings can be downloaded by the students from a dedicated website. Student feedback is obtained via an anonymous formal evaluation and via postings on the website.

1. Introduction

The focus of this paper is to provide an overview of a Workshop on Oral Communication Skills that the author has taught for the past two years in the Department of Chemical Engineering at the National University of Singapore. This non-credit Workshop is required for all graduate students in the Department. The Workshop goals are to prepare students to make both formal oral as well as poster technical presentations. Considerations that present special challenges are that the Workshop involves a relatively large number of students (45-75) from diverse cultural backgrounds (primarily from China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Middle East) for many of whom English is not their first language. As such, many of these students are more reticent and less outgoing than typical U.S. students. Interestingly, components of effective public speaking such as maintaining good eye contact, lightening up a talk with humor, or ‘dressing for the occasion’ can be difficult to implement for students from some cultures.

In writing this paper the author had some difficulty in deciding in which voice to write the paper; that is, whether to consider the reader to be a student, who might be taking this Workshop, or an educator, who might be faced with coordinating a similar workshop. The end result was a compromise between the choices. Hence, parts of this paper that deal with the creation of the website for this Workshop, the nature of the materials posted on this website, evaluation and student feedback, and the challenges faced in coordinating this Workshop are directed towards the educator. However, parts that deal directly with good oral communication skills technique are directed towards the student. Hopefully looking at what is presented to the student will be helpful to the educator who is interested in teaching a similar workshop.

This paper is organized as follows. Section 2 describes the materials posted on the dedicated website created for this Workshop. Section 3 provides an overview on organizing a technical

Krantz, W. (2008, June), Oral Communication Skills Workshop For Students In Engineering And Applied Science Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3106

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