Lecture Languor

lecture lan·guor

  [lang-ger]  Show IPA
lack of energy or vitality in the speaker or his talk; sluggishness.
lack of spirit or interest among the audience; listlessness; stagnation.
via Dangerously Irrelevant
Next week, I'll be giving a lecture (a.k.a. keynote) at the LoneStar Texas Technology Integration Academy in Denton, Texas (Twitter hashtag is #txtia12). I'm grateful that it won't be uStream'd like the one these students were required to do. (If I see anyone with a video camera, you better use the hashtag!)

To lecture..."is to read a book. If lectures were a business, it would have a 90% failure rate." That's what it meant and now you know it's success rate, as referred to by Garr Reynolds (Presentation Zen), who's worth reading/listening to just to learn how to do better presentations.
"For me, the sign of a great keynote or lecture is if I'm still thinking about it later. If I'm making connections, thinking deeply, and wanting to watch it again, then I usually enjoyed it."
Source: Michael Wacker, Reflections and Discoveries
And, after reading Jeff Utecht (The Thinking Stick) latest posts about lectures, I'm wondering if I should just "chuck it all" (referring to my keynote slides, painstakingly prepared over countless hours) and speak without slides:
But then, maybe I can lecture but just sprinkle in a few stories, right? Tim at Assorted Stuff points out this advice:
When it comes to lecturing, the people who are best at it go far beyond just transmitting information.  They weave stories, entertain, and inspire. They are the people who deliver keynotes at conferences, offer motivational seminars, present TED talks, and sometimes give political stump speeches.
Yeah, that's the ticket! I could lecture, add a few stories, and...would that be enough? Maybe, I could try to answer the question David Warlick poses:
How does your [corrected] lecture add value to the learning experience?
In a conference situation, what's the learning experience? A bunch of people sitting in perhaps uncomfortable chairs, hoping that the keynote won't put them to sleep as they shuffle through the Conference Program looking towards the next hour of time, or fiddle with technology, realizing they forgot to charge their mobile device...where's the wall plug?

Yes, I've been on the receiving end of boring lectures, and, to be blunt, played my part in delivering them. I still remember with some embarrassment the time I ran out of time during one presentation...I'd forgotten to account for the minutes the embedded videos added to the overall presentation...while previewing them in my presentation, I'd invariably move to the next slide. I wonder, how many people in the audience wish they could have done so, as well?

Allow me to inventory my biases and antiquated thinking. Don't judge me too harshly, ok?
  1. As long as I can remember, I've never been able to speak extemporaneously or memorize a speech well enough to give it. In fact, that's why my Dad sent me to Dale Carnegie Human Relations course...so I could learn to be less shy, to speak up, etc. 
  2. I remember the first time I saw Lawrence Lessig's approach to presenting (Free Culture), and found it incredibly engaging...no long lists of bullets, simply white letters on a black screen, only a few words at a time, powerful ideas. I've done my best replicate this approach time and again. Some days, I'm succcessful...more often than not, I fail. This makes me ask, am I holding on to this approach because it's comfortable? I'm not sure.
  3. Given the choice, I hate giving LONG, hour long talks...maybe micro-lectures is the way to go:
    "The microlecture format begins with a podcast that introduces a few key terms or a critical concept, then immediately turns the learning environment over to the students."

    Some times, time flies. Usually, when i can follow a loose outline, unsure of where I'm going, except to follow the wil-o-wisp of passion.
  4. Is passion in a talk enough, though? I've long admired speakers like David Warlick who invariably come up with quotable quotes. In fact, I was reminded of this when I saw Dr. Scott McLeod's Pinterest of slides (I admit, I stole two or three for my slideshow). These powerful quotes, stirring images punctuate the message, but is a diet of points like this really that effective?
  5. I mean, maybe it's just me, but when I look at beautifully designed slides--and, of course, I want a copy of them--I can't help but wonder at the story.
  6. And, then, I'm reminded of a colleague's recent enthusiasm for Dr. Eric Mazur's approach. Of course, most engagement I read about--and use--involves Twitter hashtags and TodaysMeet.com but it feels like we're fighting the straitjacket of lecture's approach.
As I reflect on my upcoming presentation, I notice how much dross I have in it...I've done what I always promise myself I'm NOT going to do--front-load it with a bunch of slides that are only tangential to what I want people to get out the presentation. I realize I need to completely revamp it and begin again with a simple question, get the audience involved from slide 1, and let the other stuff (e.g. introductions, housekeeping) take care of itself.

John T. Spencer (Education ReThink) asks the following:
Lectures: I used to blast lectures. Then I heard a great sermon, I watched some amazing TED and I took the time to sit down and truly listen to the "I Have a Dream" speech. Talks and I realized that lecture had a place. We need stories. We need speeches. The issue is context. How often do we use lecture and where does this strategy belong?
Well, next week, lecture belongs to the LoneStar Technology Integration Academy! Say a prayer for the folks in the audience!

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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure


Lisa M Lane said…
I don't think a presentation exists until you're giving it. Till then it's just stuff you want to do, and maybe some slides. I use just a few slides, and encourage questions as I go. I figure I'd rather answer comments and questions than just talk. I also figure if I'm excited enough about a subject to talk about it, I shouldn't need many notes.
doug0077 said…

The best advice I can give is to not take anybody's advice too seriously.

Be natural, be yourself, and have fun. If you're having fun, others will come along for the ride.

You'll be great!

Unknown said…
maybe a lecture is like feedback...if it does not make them think or look for connections or ask questions, it is no good....it is all story telling...pictures that make you tell the stories (very few words if any...pecha kucha style)...emploring & empowering attendees to fulfill the purpose of the conference...start with the 2-3 minute story of miguel so you give them a reason to listen to you ("yeah, i think he will have something to share with us")

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