Do lectures still matter?

For years, most events have worked in one of two ways. Either they’re set up like a tradeshow with multiple booths and attractions arranged so attendees can visit each one as they peruse the facility, or there are a planned series of lectures that require attendees to be in a certain place at a certain time.

The latter isn’t good for much. Sure, lectures are great ways to cover material. They are excellent in showing off the speaker’s ability to present information in an interesting way. Lectures are also very good at boring an audience to near death, or worse, preventing them from learning important information that may take more than a slide, clever picture and a bullet point to get across.

Audience at TEDxDU 2011 Salon

Jeff Hurt also thinks lectures are fairly useless. Calling them a “wimpy model for learning“, Hurt likens a typical event lecture as effective as handing out a report to everyone in the audience — if you’re lucky, both! — without any sort of interaction, continued learning or different perspective that could assist attendees in retaining as much as they can.

What can be done to make lectures less report-like and more interactive? Try these things:

Ask Discussion Questions
Strong speakers know their presentations are about the audience, not them, so why not ask discussion questions for later review? While not every answer can be reviewed in the room, surely a question or two will spark greater conversation that can be handled off-site after the presenter is off stage. Bonus points for questions that require people to work together.

Use Real-World Examples
Fancy metaphors and adapted nursery rhymes a fancy presentation make, but sometimes too clever is also too complicated. Speakers that use real-world examples stand a greater chance of connecting with the audience, especially if they reach outside their personal experiences and share something from an audience member (colleague, client, boss).

Ask Yourself If What You’re Saying Matters
Is there a call to action during the lecture? Could an attendee take the information from the lecture and use it to do something? Why not? What else do they need in order to do so?

The more you connect with attendees on a personal level, the better your information will be retained. Save the lectures for the boring speakers, okay?