After seven minutes, have they stopped listening?
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How to "lecture" and keep 'em engaged

Sleeping The world over, lecturing is a common teaching technique. I can still remember back to my undergraduate days the guy who slept in the back row of the 300-seat auditorium during my biology class. The alarm on his watch would go off precisely one minute before the lecture was scheduled to finish. Apparently he was not inspired. Few students were. Sometimes lecturing is unavoidable. And often, business people too are asked to give a 45 minute speech or presentation or even longer. These kind of situations tend to force presenters into a didactic method of teaching/presenting or a "boring lecture." But it does not necessarily have to be that way. A great article in PDF form from the Indiana University (1996, but still very much relevant) entitled The "Change-Up" in Lectures has a good discussion on ways to make longer talks or presentations more effective. They are specifically referring to teaching situations, but the discussion and findings are applicable to most presentation situations as well. Their conclusions are that students' attention spans are about 15-20 minutes maximum, and the length of the attention spans will shrink to as short as a few minutes in the course of an hour-long talk. Whatever the numbers are, one thing is certain: you have got to mix it up and instill a "change-up" during the course of a college lecture or longer business presentations. How about college lectures in Japan? There are wonderful exceptions, but the teaching method of choice in college is didactic: Teacher talks (often from notes), even reads. Students are expected to sit and digest the information. Problem is — and modern learning theory points this out — people are not just sponges but are "wired" for active learning. People may be used to sitting and listening for long periods, but that does not mean it is effective (or that they are either enjoying the experience or learning from it).


Mark Pryor

Great blog and website. I am using Keynote to create presentations for leadership class in the church I am currently preaching at. I would love to see some examples of killer prez's as opposed to snoozers. Any links you'd care to share? Also would like to see some tools that could be used alongside keynote for graphics, annimation, etc.

luca collacciani

Thank you for pointing out the article from the Indiana University. It should be read by every single teacher.

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