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What makes a good lecturer?

There is a certain amount of mythology about lecturing, one of the most persistent myths being that some people are born with an extraordinary flair for lecturing and if you are not one of the fortunate few, then perhaps the best you can hope for is to get through the material you’ve prepared with little drama and few problems. Of course some people are more outgoing and comfortable presenting to groups than others, but the desired outcome of a lecture is that people learn, not that they are entertained.

You might look for more of a performance if you are presenting at a conference or symposium, so as to engage the audience and make the talk memorable.

Effective lecturing is more a matter of skill than charisma, although there are some techniques that can help to make your lectures more enjoyable for those in the audience.

The main characteristics of a good lecturer are that they:

  • present the material in a clear and logical sequence
  • make the material accessible, intelligible and meaningful
  • cover the subject matter adequately
  • are constructive and helpful in their criticism
  • demonstrate an expert (and authoritarian) knowledge in their subject
  • pace the lecture appropriately
  • include material not readily accessible in textbooks
  • are concise
  • illustrate the practical applications of the theory presented
  • show enthusiasm for the subject
  • generate curiosity about the lecture material early in the lecture.

 

A good lecturer presents the audience with opportunities for meaningful engagement with the subject material and with their lecturer.

 

Another persistent myth about lecturing is that as long as the material is interesting it will be sufficient to attract and hold the audience’s attention. As lecturer, you may judge it to be fascinating, but even highly motivated learners need more than interesting material. An effective lecture should present information that the audience could not learn from simply reading up on the subject of the lecture. And a presentation at a conference or workshop should also stimulate the audience to find out more or to introduce some new research or perspective.

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