Sunday, October 30, 2011

Why and How I Teach Writing, Part 7: Lecturing

I try to apply these 13 maxims whenever I lecture.
  1. Know thy audience. Address the people before you, not some imagined, idealized group. They are giving their precious time to hear what you have to say; make it worth their while by tailoring your presentation to their concerns.
  2. Respect thy audience. Even if they’re kindergartners, assume they know as much as you—if not more. Be grateful they’re there and remember that you’re there to serve them.
  3. Address a central issue. Avoid taking on the universe in the brief time allotted. Tell the audience the question you will answer or the issue you will address.
  4. Map the lecture. Let the audience know upfront where the lecture is heading. Give a brief overview.
  5. Keep it brief. Hit the supporting points immediately. People do not want to hear experts drone endlessly as if engaged in a monologue.
  6. Pace yourself. This tip does not contradict the previous one. People need to hear what you say, and some do not efficiently process information they hear. Take your time.
  7. Tell war stories. People enjoy hearing the well-placed illustrative anecdote. Keep it brief and ensure that it drives home a key point.
  8. Use humor. We all appreciate someone who can make us laugh. When appropriate, bring humor into the presentation.
  9. Use visuals. Allow pictures—but not paragraphs—to dramatize or support what you’re saying. Pictures are more memorable than words.
  10. Rely on verifiable facts. Whatever you say, be prepared to cite the source because you will be challenged.
  11. Engage the audience. Let them participate, even letting them become co-lecturers if it makes sense. Look for opportunities to give them individual or team exercises and debrief on all such activities.
  12. Appreciate the silence. If your question to the audience results in a dead silence, wait for a response. Maybe the question is so profound that people need time to reflect on it. Never answer your own question.
  13. Deliver on all promises. If you say, “I’ll speak for five minutes,” then don’t speak for six. If you say, “I will prove that by the end of this lecture,” then prove it. Be your word.