You have a room full of students and you want them to walk out of the room enthused and full of the key facts from your lecture that you spent all weekend preparing. So, let’s take a deep dive into 10 of the best tips you’ll come across when delivering lectures to your students.
1. Rewrite Using Speaking Out Loud English
When writing your lecture always use speaking out loud English. That means don’t just transcribe chunks from your dissertation or your thesis however brilliant it is. Those words are to be read, not heard. Lecture notes don’t need to leap off the page they need to leap off the lips. So go back to basics, use conversational English. That’s language that you would use across the dinner party table, at the bar of your pub or to your hairdresser. This is not dumbing down. You can use the language of the lecture but there must also be an explanation of the concepts in plain English. This is the essence of communication. You need to be listened to not heard, and you need to be understood – first time.
It’s not a question of too fast. It’s not a question of too slow. It’s a question of pace. When writing your lecture build in gear changes. There are times when you introduce a new concept and it’s vital to let that concept breathe. Wait. Say it again. Say. It. Again. Let it hang there. Don’t panic. Survey the crowd. Have they got it? Then you can slip into second, third and fourth gear and rush along with your students mentally gasping for breath as you underline, illustrate and enthuse about what you have just brought to the forum.
If you don’t care, they won’t care. This may be the 20th time you have delivered this lecture. Your students – it’s the first time they’ve heard it. If it’s a great lecture bring to it the passion you felt the first time you delivered it. What was the last concert you went to? Mine was Bruce Springsteen. How many times has the Boss sung Born To Run? Probably thousands. Did he sing it again? Yes he did. Was it 1975 LP note perfect? No it wasn’t. There was a twist here, a slightly altered vocal intonation there, a different sax player and a slightly different timbre to his tonguing technique. But was the passion still there? Oh yes. It was electrifying
Take care with props. Props include slides, videos content, experiments, Bunsen burners anything other than you and your words. Props should underline what you are saying. They shouldn’t be a replacement for what you are saying. Death by PowerPoint is alive and well and living in lecture halls across Britain. Corporate UK has – mostly – rid itself of the dreaded screen full of words which merely echo limply what you are saying. Pictures speak louder than words. Content is King. Your school, college or university will certainly have an art, graphic, design, media department. Enlist them to come up with striking content to put on the lecture hall screen. But please, please, please don’t just bullet point everything you are saying out loud.
You are the centre of attention. Your students are watching a one person show not a musical. Don’t stand still. Don’t look down. Work the room by looking around and moving around. Your lecture is in your head so you can take it with you. Have a wander. It’s good for the circulation and gets air into the lungs and it makes them follow you. Students staring at one spot for minute after minute slowly nod off. Words alone cannot hold the attention. Passion alone might, just, but it’s not guaranteed. But if I want to follow what you are saying then I will also physically follow you. If you are putting an image on the screen, stride to the front of the stage and look back at it yourself. Comment on it. Point at it. Look at them and get them to join you looking at it. The physicality of your performance is vital.
Is there a lecturer with a reputation among the student body for being brilliant, witty, charming, thrilling? They may not be at the top of the academic tree. They may not be from your field. But someone, somewhere will have a reputation for thrilling their student audiences. Go and watch and listen. And watch the audience. Gauge their reactions and try to marry reaction to on stage performance. Which leads us to…
You are not there to declaim from the stage. Failed actors who pitch up as Presentation Trainers will do you no favours by getting you to declaim from the stage, luvvie. Of course Performance starts with the words you use, so see the first few Top Tips above. And we don’t want you to pretend to be someone you are not. But you need to give it some welly. We need you to be the biggest, brightest, most authoritative version of yourself you can be. People tend to think that they’re behaving like a loony, shouting and raving. But the lecture hall environment squashes voices, narrows the dynamic range and compresses noise. You need to put a bit more in to get normal out. You need to put a lot more in to get big and bright and authoritative out.
No one goes on stage without rehearsing. No one does a play in 2016 and goes on stage to do it again in 2017 without rehearsing. In front of a mirror is okay, in front of a loved one is better. If you can form a buddy act with a like-minded colleague even better. And…
9. Take Advice
Loved one’s can be the harshest of critics but they want you to succeed, they know you better than anyone else and their advice is honestly given. Listen to it. There is no performance which cannot be made better.
Do not be afraid of feedback. Are you brave enough to ask students what they think of your lecture? A customer survey is the surest way any business or organisation can find out what the end user thinks of the service they are providing. They are, after all, paying for the privilege. Student forums exists, students talk and are able to publicly feedback – lecturers do not exist in a bubble. Performances are monitored and of course as one student in America found out to his cost on twitter, lecturers are also prominent on social media and can respond to criticism.