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Lecture notes and handouts

Depending on your familiarity and confidence about the topic, writing it out in advance can help you clarify what and how much needs to be included, and ensure that it can be delivered in the time available. If you are using PowerPoint, you can use the ‘notes’ feature to write bullet points or a full script and you can also record and rehearse your presentation with timings.

When lecturing, you should never read out a whole script or each slide by slide as this is boring for you and the audience. Preparing your outline and then speaking to it rather than reading slides will seem more spontaneous and interesting. Lecture notes may take the form of a list of bullet points, a flow chart or diagram, or a set of prompt cards, depending on your preferred presenting style. If you plan to move around the podium or around the lecture theatre then make sure you are comfortable with the microphone and use of remote devices for moving on your slides. Learning the topic in-depth helps you make good eye contact, monitor audience reaction and therefore pace the lecture more effectively.


Learners are not always prepared for the lecture and may not have the necessary prior knowledge, note-taking skills and motivation to follow the lecture. Handouts can compensate for lack of preparedness without spoon-feeding, being patronising or substituting for attendance at the lecture.

Appropriate handouts provide:

  • An outline of the lecture to help learners follow it more easily and allow them to concentrate on listening and processing the information as they hear it, instead of concentrating on transcribing every word. Later, the outline will help them review their notes and reflect on the content of the lecture
  • Essential diagrams so learners are listening and engaging, not drawing pictures
  • Materials that learners may find difficult or impossible to obtain elsewhere
  • Questions and tasks that will encourage learners to reflect on their learning
  • Gaps so that learners can fill in text or complete diagrams, thus aiding the retention of knowledge
  • A supplementary reading list

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