Instructional methods can be divided into one-way and two-way methods. In the one-way method, the direction of the information is from the instructor to the audience. In the two-way method, information is exchanged in both ways. These methods are also known as content-centred or learner-centred activity. In practice, lectures are generally one-way and training courses are two-way.
The methods in each style are quite different but they both have their uses. Lectures are suitable for a large audience, where interaction is not possible or time consuming. Even though lectures are very useful as a teaching method, delivering a training course in the form of a lecture is not recommended as the training session could become boring and unproductive. This article explores the one-way instructional method and suggests solutions to make the experience more interactive or memorable without losing the benefits of a lecturing activity.
Think of the bad lectures you have been to. Did they drag on for a long time? Did the speaker talked too slowly or too fast? Did the speaker talk about subjects as if you were not there? Were you lost?
A lecture or a public talk can go horribly wrong for simple reasons such as forgetting the audience and what they could be interested in. The result is that the audience is mentally detached from the speaker.
To make a public speaking experience effective, entertaining and memorable, you can use a number of simple guidelines as follows:
- Keep the talk short, running no longer than 20 minutes. Many studies show that most audience will lose concentration after 20 minutes.
- If you have more content that can be covered in 20 minutes, use Interactive Pauses to make sure the audience stays with you. Examples are Sharing Content and Systematic Note Taking
- Make sure you maintain eye contact. With the popularity of slides as a presentation method, some speakers are tempted to read from the screen while they talk which means they will be pointing away from the audience while talking. If you have to read, read from your own monitor, laptop display or notes so facing your audience most of the time.
- Appear enthusiastic and energetic. Enthusiasm is contagious. If you look bored or sleep or worst if you look like a person who is just doing their job, the audience will be the first to know and will match your behaviour and posture!
- To make sure the audience is with you, pause and ask them if they are OK with the pace. This makes your talk more informal which usually makes your audience relax and pay attention even more (in case they are going to be asked again).
- Pause, repeat and link back to what you have already talked about. For example, “So far we have talked about X, Y and Z and as you saw Y led to Z. Now I am going to tell you about T…do you see where this is going?” and then continue so the audience knows where you are coming from and where you are going.
- Use animated gestures to emphasise points but use them in moderation otherwise they become distracting.
- If possible, use props periodically to make the talk more entertaining and creative. Adding props triggers all sorts of psychological responses in people and keeps them awake and focused.
Can you think of any other critical areas that a speaker needs to pay attention to?