Your perfect lecture – Part 1: Preparation

Reading time: 10 minutes

File:Corporate Woman Giving a PowerPoint Presentation.svg
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/
File:Corporate_Woman_Giving_a_Power
Point_Presentation.svg

WORKING METHODS Some love it, some hate it.  But you should become more comfortable with lectures, because they are not only one of the most important methods in school life, but also play an important role in professional life.  This makes a proper preparation even more important.  And with the right structure, it’s child’s play to prepare.

I love giving lectures because with the right preparation you can easily get a good grade.  Of course there is a lot of work behind it.  But I believe I have found the right approach for me to work as effectively and time-saving as possible.

Note: If this is a group work, you will find more tips specifically for working together here. If you are giving a presentation on your own, ignore this tip.

1 In the beginning there is the topic

You can choose your own topic?  Great!  Think carefully about what you are interested in and if you feel able to explain this topic to others.  If the topic is already given – also fine.  Then you don’t have to think about it yourself, but can start right away to spice up the lecture, which may sound boring at first.

The best way to do this is to think about what you want to achieve with your lecture:

  1. What are the main messages I want to make clear? Is there perhaps a guiding question I need to answer?
  2. Should I just inform the others about the topic? Do I want to interest them or even encourage them to discuss it?  Or do I want to appeal to them?

2 Defining the framework

Before you start gathering information, you should set the framework for the presentation.  Therefore you have to ask yourself: How do I want to get my topic across?  How do I best achieve the goal I have set myself?

Please note: These are only rough preliminary considerations which you will build on later, but which can still be changed during the course of the lecture.

  1. Timing: Usually this condition is already set by your teacher.  The whole further arrangement depends on whether it is a short lecture of 10 minutes or a 60-minute presentation.
  2. Rough outline: Based on the time you want to fill in, think about how you can structure your presentation in order to present the main statements as well as possible.  Don’t go too small steps. Start with a very general structure, for example 1. Biography of Bach 2. Musical characteristics 3. Example piece etc.
  3. Illustrative material: Now think about how you can illustrate what has been said.  Basically, the longer your presentation is, the more interesting you must to present the information.  For a short lecture, single pictures (caution: not too small and in a NY case with a reference!) or a poster are usually sufficient.  For longer presentations PowerPoint or OpenOffice presentations are suitable. 
    In addition, you can also work with handouts that summarize the most important information briefly and concisely – possibly also in connection with pictures.  A presentation can also be given a bit of pep by integrating a short video, for example as an introduction.  But this should be used with care.  It is not suitable for short lectures and should generally not be too long, since the main focus is of course on what you say yourself.
  4. Involving the students: Finally, it is important to know what role the audience should play in your presentation.  Do you simply want to speak the whole time while your classmates sit and listen or should they actively participate in the conversation? 
    Again, the importance of interaction with the students increases with the length of the talk.  By incorporating tasks that require the students to deal with one of your sub-topics themselves, the knowledge conveyed is retained longer.  A quiz at the end has the same effect and additionally checks whether your audience has understood the most important information.
Lecture: Pictures take it to a new level.
Pictures take your presentation to a whole new level.

3 Collection and processing of information

This is the most important and, in my opinion, most exciting part of your preparation: collecting and organizing information. It is advisable to exploit the content using one main source of information (perhaps this source is already given by the teacher) and to use other sources only for further information.

If you feel confident in the topic you are presenting, you can instead draw information from all sources of information equally and put them together to form a whole, like in a big puzzle. But this requires a high degree of structure and a lot of background knowledge.

Make sure to use different sources of information, e.g. to get away from Wikipedia and alternatively work with a book. But caution is required everywhere, because not everything that is told must also be true or it is strongly subjective.

If you think you have noted down all the important information (including the sources you used), you have to arrange it, process it and summarize it into key points (no sentences!). This is where your rough outline comes into play again. With your hopefully now extensive knowledge you can complete it and fill it up with subtopics. This is what you orientate yourself on when you build up your key points.

4 Structure of the lecture

In order to make your presentation presentable now, you have to put your key points in a nice frame and add illustrative material.

First of all, choose a good introduction for your presentation, such as a quotation or a question that fits the topic, with which you can open the lecture and which will attract the attention of the audience or, in the best case, interest them in your lecture. To keep the content flowing during the presentation, it is also worthwhile to find suitable transitions from one subtopic to the next.

To round off your presentation perfectly, your conclusion should contain both a reference to the beginning and the conclusion/answer to the main question. Make sure that your illustrative material only makes the presentation more interesting, but does not put it in the background, e.g. that it contains as little text as possible. This is not the problem with pictures if they contain little text except for a short subtitle.

Even if you decide to use a poster, it is important to keep the descriptions to a minimum. For PowerPoint or OpenOffice presentations this tip is more important than ever. So don’t just write down your key points, but keep it short and focus on pictures, videos or even audio files instead. Presentations consisting only of pictures are also okay. If you work with a handout, all the information that is important for the students can be found there.

Tip: You will soon find more detailed descriptions of how to create PowerPoint presentations, handouts, … in separate articles in my blog.

5. Assembling and checking all parts

Lecture: Your checklist!

 You think you have worked all the points of your framework off? Congratulations! To be sure that your presentation will be perfect after so much work, it is advisable to talk everything through again and check it with the following checklist:

  1. Do you stay within the time limit?
  2. Are the key points packed into a nice frame and sound fluent?
  3. Does the illustrative material fit without pushing itself too much into the foreground?
  4. Do you have enough opportunities to respond to your classmates so that they are not bored and take as much as possible with them?
  5. And last but not least: Have you noted all necessary references?

Tips and tricks

Finally, a few tricks follow, which make my development process visibly easier.

  1. Start early enough!: Especially with more extensive lectures you should start as early as possible with the preparations, because at the beginning you can never estimate exactly how long the elaboration will take. In this way, you save yourself unnecessary stress, which will improve the quality of your presentation.
  2. Really get into the topic: Your presentation is only good if you know what you’re talking about. Look up necessary technical terms, and rephrase all descriptions that the normal student does not understand. The additional knowledge will not only improve your grade, but also save you from uncomfortable silence when students or teachers ask questions about your topic.
  3. Save your key points digitally: If it is technically possible for you to work with Word or another writing program, it is always a good idea to note your key points there. This way you keep an overview and can quickly change the structure of your notes, and you don’t risk not being able to find your notes again because they are saved on your hard disk. But for the lecture itself you should have your key points handwritten.
  4. Always write down the sources first: To prevent the sources from growing too big for you, it is worthwhile to create a list of sources right at the beginning and to write down all sources together with the information. This will save you unnecessary searching at the end.

Now you know everything you need to know and can prepare your perfect lecture with a clear conscience. Or do you know any other tips for preparing lectures? Get in touch with me and I will include them in the article!

You can read all these tips again on wikihow. Click here to find out how to master the presentation of your lecture perfectly.

2 Replies to “Your perfect lecture – Part 1: Preparation”

  1. Once again: Awesome tips! I’m always trying to keep the lecture or presentation rounded up with choosing the ending, so it can match the reference of the beginning. Maybe one could ask a question at first and answer it at the end with the knowledge presented. I really like preparing talks, thanks for the check list though!

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