We attended a Nadfas lecture the other week and enjoyed it, and it made me reflect on the different qualities of lecturers.

You make a preliminary assessment as the speaker sits, waiting to be introduced. Is he/she of attractive, or interesting appearance? How well and appropriately is he or she dressed? Does he/she look relaxed and comfortable?

Some nervousness is understandable. Speakers should remember that in by far the majority of cases, the audience is on your side. They want you to make a good job of it. They will give you time to settle in. They’ve turned out, after all, and British audiences are generally polite and well-mannered. You should have nothing to fear.

There are one or two pitfalls for would be lecturers to avoid, however.

Starting late. If the audience has to hang about for too long, (in my case this is more than 5 minutes, but possibly some people have more patience) it will become restive and bad-tempered.

Mumbling. The audience must be able to hear without straining. But the speaker shouldn’t shout: the audience will feel it is being hectored.

Boring, monotonous delivery. Such speakers sometimes drone on and on in minute detail. The lecturer certainly understands his subject in depth. There is NOTHING about the Blue Backed Beetle found only on North facing slopes of Shropshire that he doesn’t know and he clearly regards it as his mission to ensure that by the time you escape from his lecture, you know all of it as well. It can be difficult to stay awake.

In contrast to the Blue Backed Beetle man, there is The Lightweight. Often a woman, she appears to know nothing more about her subject than she might have researched on Wikipedia last week. You have no confidence in her understanding of the subject. She is a professional lecturer rather than an expert in whatever she’s talking about, and you can hear her mentally flagging up future lectures from some of the material she discusses. You feel you probably know more about the Fishing Villages of Scotland than she does, and must resist asking her questions to illustrate this.

Then there is the lecturer who condescends to the audience. It is clear that he regards the audience not only as a necessary evil, but as an uneducated mob of the great unwashed, who won’t understand words of more than 5 letters and should be slowly spoon-fed a simplified version designed not to over-tax its feeble intellect (unlike the speaker, who is a world wide expert on his subject, and terribly clever about everything else.) One wonders if stoning is permissible.

Speakers should avoid irritating mannerisms. These can include oddities of pronunciation, coughing, jingling objects in pockets, a peculiar stance or movement, delivery too slow, delivery too fast, giggles, sniffs… You find you cont the number of times he says, Ahem, rather than listening to the actual content.

Titles of lectures don’t seem to be of much significance to the speakers, for often they only loosely conform to how their talk is described. Thus, Art of the Caribbean may include Polynesia; and How to Make Scones may turn out to be mostly about how to buy an oven. The Blue Backed Shropshire beetle man, on the other hand – he never deviates from his title.

But every now and then, some hero/heroine comes along with a genuine depth of knowledge of his/her subject; with enthusiasm, charm and humour; with respect for the audience, and can talk to a brief. He/she makes up for all the deficient colleagues, and you’re glad you turned out.

Besides, if you are interested in the Blue Backed Shropshire beetle, I know the very man for you!

About adhocannie
I am a good natured woman with a long memory and a swift tongue. I like loooking at things and thinking about them. Also food, clothes, travel, reading, sewing. I try to see the ridiculous in things, but sobriety of reflection keeps edgting in. I have husband, children, grandchildren, friends... I feel rich in things that matter. I am a happy exile. I like writing. I do not like talking about me (though I do.). You willl be much more interesting.

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