As you seek to increase student engagement and involvement in your classes, you may also be striving to be a more engaging lecturer who draws students into a topic and inspires them to embrace the learning process.
Given that most of us aren’t natural-born speakers, we all benefit from some pointers that help us polish our lecture and presentation style. In their book Business Communication: Process and Product, Eighth Edition, Mary Ellen Guffey and Dana Loewy provide a list of ten suggestions for gaining and keeping your listeners’ attention; we’ve adapted them below. Keep these points in mind as you prepare your next lecture, and you’ll be well on your way to a class session filled with engaged students.
Ways to create and give an engaging lecture
- To gain students’ interest from the outset, consider opening your lecture with a brief, but relatable story, anecdote, puzzle, or example that will intrigue students and heighten their curiosity about the material to come.
- At the beginning of the lecture, also be sure to clearly state your goals and objectives. If you are clear about your objectives (e.g. “Today, you will learn how to…” or “In this lecture, we’ll cover the three main factors that caused…”), then students will “tune in” to hear this information and will thus listen in a more active manner.
- Maintain strong eye contact. At the beginning of your lecture, gain your students’ attention and interest by scanning the entire room. Then, as you proceed through the lecture, maintain connections with individuals by holding one person’s gaze for two to five seconds; then, move on to another.
- Instead of standing behind a podium for the whole lecture, move about the front of the room. By staying animated and engaged, you’ll demonstrate your enthusiasm for the topic. If you show that you’re enthusiastic, students will be more likely to become enthusiastic as well!
- Ask a variety of questions. Rhetorical questions can spark individual reflection on the topic; questions that ask for a show of hands encourage participation; discussion questions foster interaction and promote critical thinking.
- Get students involved in your lecture by having them participate in demonstrations of the concepts you’re covering that day.
- Bring in models, artifacts, or other items that help students see (and thereby better understand) the topic at hand. You might also want to pass these items around. (Note that you will want to use these judiciously, so that they do not become distractions. For suggestions, read our previous article, “Tips for Using Lecture Aids Effectively.”)
- Visual aids such as charts, graphs, photos, and videos also add interest, stimulate curiosity, and illustrate your key points. On a similar note: if you’re conducting a discussion, write down responses on the board or on a flipchart; this will help the students recall what’s being discussed. As the discussion progresses, they can refer back to the points on the chart.
- Remember: though students attend class to learn about your topic, their engagement increases if they understand the value of the material and why it should matter to them. Thus, it pays to do what you can to help them see the application of your material and how it connects to their academic, professional, or personal lives.
- As a final note… consider any other aspects that you believe might make you look, sound, or appear more authoritative (dress? tone of voice? demeanor?), and adopt those in a manner that suits your personality while simultaneously enhancing your credibility. (Guffey and Loewy, 506)
Reference: Guffey, Mary Ellen and Dana Loewy. 2015. Business Communication: Process and Product, Eighth Edition. Mason, OH: South-Western, Cengage Learning.
In your eyes, what are the qualities of an engaging speaker? How do you go about engaging your listeners? Share your ideas in the comments below.