After Hours

TechRepublic members have differing opinions on the value of transcribing lectures

How do you make sure you deliver consistently high-quality lectures? Jeff Davis' tip drew mixed responses from IT trainers.

In “To improve your training lectures, take this tip from stand-up comics ,” I suggested that one way to improve the quality of your lectures when you teach is to record your entire lecture, and then write down every word you say. Having a transcript of what you’ve said helps you identify and fix mistakes. It also helps you remember the strokes of brilliance you want to use in future lectures.

I received some interesting feedback about that article. Here are some of the highlights.

Make sure taping is legal; practice in front of the mirror and family
TechRepublic member Steve wrote: “I believe it's actually out of bounds to record in an MOC [Microsoft Official Curriculum] class. I would read my agreement.

“Otherwise, you can record yourself for any other classes (end user/iNet) and get rid of a lot of bad habits. An addendum is that most trainers would benefit from standing in [front of] a mirror and delivering their lectures to themselves. I know a couple of trainers who actually practice teaching SQL to their kids and spouses. Your family won't necessarily have the right questions, but they can tell you when you sound a bit drab, and they can possibly test your analogies.”

Why not videotape?
TechRepublic member PhillipR wrote: “It seems like it might be more useful—as well as far easier—to videotape the lecture. Then review everything: Your words, body language, and movements.”

Rick W., Colonel, US Army, Retired, agreed: “I have been a lecturer and corporate briefer in hundreds and hundreds of appearances, and a college and grad school instructor as well. This tip I learned comes from the Army public affairs folks: Go a step further. Have someone videotape your lecture style at least once. With this, you will pick up your physical style faults (slouching, both hands firmly in pockets all the time, etc.) in addition to the sound track benefits. It also gives you an audio track from the student's point, not from a recorder on your podium. This helps detect when you "mumble in your beard" with your head down, unintelligible to the class, but your podium recorder won't indicate a problem.”
Watching yourself teach on a videotape certainly allows you to do a more in-depth analysis of your teaching style. However, video has its down sides. You can turn on a hand-held tape recorder, leave it on the desk, and it’ll pick up everything you say. A video camera needs to have an operator in order to follow you around, assuming you do move about the classroom. You can also pop an audiocassette into your car’s stereo and listen to it at any time, but you can only review a videotape with a tape player and a television.
Preparation and knowledge matter more than a transcript
Here’s what Pat S., MCSE, MCT, CCSA, CCSE, CIW Ex-Infantry School Instructor MAJ, SC US Army Reserve had to say: “[Making a transcript] implies that my lectures are the same for each class. They aren't. I try and tailor my class to cover the subject matter that is presented, but also to address the concerns and particular associations my students require (as identified in the introductions the first hour of the first day). As I encourage them to bring issues they find at work to class, this often leads to discussions that are not replicated for the next group. This is as it should be.

“The next group will have different concerns and issues, and by holding on to examples and discussions from my previous class, I would only be adhering to a ’template‘ that didn't fit. Secondly, if I don't know how my lecture is being perceived and have to wait until I listen to a tape of myself, I'm in the wrong business.

“Instructors breathe life into their courses by exciting the imagination and thinking process of their students. The amount of energy is infectious and drives the tempo of the class. Waiting for a review of a tape about a class is too late for the students. Preparation and knowledge of the subject matter is the key. Great idea. Let's leave it to the comics.”
To comment on this article, or to share your own tips for improving your public speaking skills, please post your comments below or send us a note.

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