How to Give A Lecture



Creating and presenting a lecture can be done in many different ways. The two majors formats are horrible and good. There are some simple rules to abide by that make any lecture palatable. Beyond that the sky is the limit in making presentations more interesting and effective. But as with everything else let’s start with the basics:


Objective and Summary Slides:

These should be the first and last slides of your presentation. They frame your entire presentation and I would argue should be the first thing you come up with when planning a lecture. You should decide on no more than 3-5 learning points. Anything more is usually too much to tackle in one teaching session. When coming up with these points try to remember who you who is in the audience. What are their expectations and what is the culture of the audience? Your presentation should be different depending on the level of education, i.e medical student versus grand rounds, and aimed towards the practice or beliefs of the audience, i.e. surgery versus internal medicine. Once you come up with your learning points it becomes easier to fill in the rest.


Slide Formatting:

A huge pet peeve of mine. POWERPOINT SLIDES ARE FOR THE AUDIENCE!! There should be no more than 4-5 lines per slide with no more than 6 words per line. Heading font size should be at least 36 and body at least 28. Maximize all font sizes. Pictures are more effective than words and your audience will read the slide long before you can verbalize it. That being said visuals need to be used correctly. Be careful with animations and flashy slide transitions, it often just distracts from your presentation. Any table that is in a presentation should be important enough to spend at least a minute on and should be readable. There should be no apologies for small text, poor formatting, a blurry picture, etc. If a table is important and does not project well reformat it using excel, word art, anything. You can even draw it on a blackboard.


Be Prepared:

Know the capabilities of the site your lecturing at. If you need sound or internet connection confirm they will be available. Ideally it is best to visit the room beforehand and set up for presentation for a test run. Always be prepared that your plan will not work. Have a back up for any multimedia or make sure your presentation is not dependent on it. Nothing more embarrassing or deadly to a good lecture than you fumbling for half you time with a video.


Time Management:

This is my second huge pet peeve. Know how much time you have to lecture and ideally plan your lecture for 2/3 of this time, e.g. 45 min time slot should have a 30 min lecture. This will allow you to be versatile in multiple ways. You can involve the audience, have adequate time for questions and most importantly never run over time. The best way to lose your audiences attention is to waste their time by cutting into their time off. No one has ever been upset that a lecturer has finished early, none! The only way to ensure proper time management is to:



When you have created and planned your presentation the most important step is to rehearse it. There’s no other way to know how long it will take, the timing of your slides and how stupid you sound. By doing this you can correct mistakes or flow issues that would never be apparent if you did not rehearse. In general do not memorize things to say but know what you want to say for each slide. It’s better for a presentation to sound more conversational rather than a script. Rehearsing can be done with anyone: colleagues, mentors, significant others or a mirror. The more perspectives the better,

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Assistant Program Director of SUNY Downstate EM Residency

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1 comment for “How to Give A Lecture

  1. Ian deSouza
    February 12, 2015 at 2:48 pm

    Great post. I especially agree with the time management and rehearsal suggestions. Also, some people are natural speakers, but most are not. Your first few presentations will be extremely anxiety-provoking, but the more you do, the better and more comfortable you’ll get. Seize the opportunity to speak to a wide range of audiences – medical students, non-EM residents, international, even non-physicians. And, as many of you are probably aware of, it is often difficult to obtain speakers because of fear/inexperience. So if you can get comfortable with it, you’ll be considered a great asset to your education division.

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