BEST Module 8: Giving Lectures

Bringing Education & Service Together (BEST) is an interdisciplinary service learning project for resident physicians.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this module, residents will be able to:

  • Deliver interactive mini-lectures.
  • Explain the LECTURE approach to giving lectures.
  • Employ effective lecture techniques.

The “LECTURE” Approach to Giving Interactive Presentations

Learning Outcomes
  • In any teaching situation, it is important to clarify the goals of the session: the learners’ goals, then your goals.
  • For lectures, teachers explain goals in the form of behavioral learning objectives: the specific behaviors we expect attendees to be able to do after participating in the session.
  • Example: “After participating in this session, students will be able to describe one treatment strategy for acute low back strain.”
  • Clarify why the audience needs to hear about this topic.

As always, teach through questioning: in this case, by taking time early in the session to evaluate your attendees’ prior experience and knowledge base for the topic you’ll be discussing.

If they just had a lecture last week on the same topic, you can adjust your talk to fill in gaps in their knowledge rather than repeating what they already know.

What are the attendees’ own learning goals for this session? Establish a positive learning climate by giving attendees permission to reveal their limitations and learning needs.

Control of session

As the teacher and leader, you control the teaching session, so don’t hesitate to take charge and make adjustments. How can you best organize the session to achieve your learning objectives?

  • Before the talk, spend some time organizing your material.
  • Well-designed audiovisual materials (projected images, handouts, writing on board) are an evidence-based means of enhancing learning.
  • Don’t forget that audiovisuals must be legible in order to be effective.
  • Pace your talk within the time you have. You don’t need to “cover” all material.

During your talk, certain techniques will enhance your presentation:

  • Make your talk personal: use humor if it comes naturally to you, or include a brief story.
  • Speak in your natural conversational style, rather than reading a “canned” script (which causes somnolence).
  • Move around and gesture in whatever way feels right, as long as you avoid letting anxiety cause you to pace or use repetitive gestures.
  • Avoid apologizing as you speak.
  • Look at each audience member rather than at the slides or board.

Help attendees understand the topic by asking them to analyze and synthesize the material.


Help attendees retain what they’ve learned by encouraging review of facts and concepts.


Make at least brief mention of learning resources that attendees can use after the session (articles, online resources).

As always, encourage self-directed learning: what would attendees like to do to enhance their own learning?

Tips for Giving Lectures

Actively Engage
  • Use games, questions, polls, or something as simple as asking them to raise their hands. Not only will this connect you to your audience more effectively, it will help reduce any speaker anxiety you might be experiencing.
  • Using visual aids allows for multi-modal learning and increases listening. Assuming, of course, the visual aids are done well.
  • Incorporating dynamic images encourages metaphorical thinking and aids student learning.
  • Using humorous slides to make your point also engages the listeners emotions, which aids retention of the material.
  • Staring at a lot of words or numbers on the screen is overwhelming for most people, even if that data reinforces key points of your presentation. Put any complicated data into easily-understandable visualizations. There are a number of excellent resources for creating infographics and other forms of data visualization.
  • Standing in the same spot communicates a lack of confidence and an unwillingness to connect with you audience. Move into the audience space as much as possible.
  • Don’t lock yourself in place by standing directly next to your computer or behind a podium during your presentation. Use a clicker or wireless mouse to advance your slides to free yourself from your computer.
  • If you are using a mic, try using a body mic that allows you to move about the space.
  • A simple, yet potent way to make a human connection with others is to smile. When we are nervous we sometimes forget this powerful tool of audience engagement.