Speak up or shut up: A guide to seminar etiquette

There’s always one

Everyone has that person in their seminar. You know, the one that either needs to speak up or shut up. The one everyone wants to strangle. To make sure you’re not that person, or aren’t at risk of becoming that person, The Tab have put together a helpful list of the most annoying things you can do in seminars, based on real conversations with real people who have been in real seminars. If you’re guilty of any of these things, you need to sort your life out.

Asking too many unnecessary questions

Don’t ask loads of questions, or if it’s really important, wait until after so that you’re not wasting everyone else’s time with ridiculous shit. Don’t waste everyone’s time when it’s not really necessary. One, two or maybe even three questions are fine, but when you’re edging closer to the ten mark, you really ought to stop. You know who you are.

Talking when its not your turn

The second thing: If your tutor asks someone specific to speak that isn’t you, they didn’t want you to interrupt and annoy everyone else. It’s good that you’ve got some ideas, but how about waiting until it’s actually your turn to talk? Not only is it rude, it’s frankly just embarrassing. Just don’t do it.


 Acting like you and the seminar tutor are the only ones in the room

Acting like it’s just you and the tutor in the room isn’t a good idea unless you’re trying to build up a cult following of people united in their hatred of you. You need to understand that the ten or so other people in the room probably want to share their ideas and ask questions too, and they’re not going to be happy when there’s five minutes left and all that’s happened is you spewing bullshit for most of the hour. Know your limits.


When no one talks and its painfully awkward

On the opposite side, there are the moments when everyone is silently pleading for someone else to speak, to break the tension, to please, please, for the love of God end the tutor’s prompting. In this scenario, someone needs to take one for the team and say something, anything, that might spark a debate that will satisfy your tutor. You might even have a eureka moment and have a couple of good ideas of your own – unlikely I know.



When no one does the required reading

The fifth thing? Do the reading that has been set. You might get away with not doing it, but is it really worth the risk when nine times out of ten you have to share your opinion and you’re sat there floundering for something remotely intelligent to say? Not only is it uncomfortable for everyone in the room, it’s obvious to your tutor that you’re not taking your degree as seriously as you should be. Take notes as you’re reading so that you have something to fall back on if you are chosen to speak. If not, bumbling and stuttering over a few instant ideas isn’t going to make you very likeable, especially for those that did actually put the effort in and do the work.


When people are late

Seminars are a little different to lectures –  you can’t just sneak into a room with close to a hundred people twenty minutes late and get away with it. Not only will you likely be on the receiving end of a disapproving glare from your tutor (if you’re lucky), but odds are your peers will be annoyed because everything has to be explained again for your benefit. No one wants that.