From Presenting to Lecturing: Adapting Material for Classroom Delivery

Presentations are a common tool for which graduate students and faculty often receive training during their undergraduate and graduate course work. Lectures seem to be a natural offshoot from presentations, but there are significant differences between the two. We have identified contextual, structural, interaction and delivery components that are commonly different in lectures than in presentations. Keep in mind, however, that lectures and presentations are not two totally different entities, and that it would be more accurate to view them as two ends of a continuum.

An event such as a guest lecture shares elements of both a lecture and a presentation. As such, though presentations and lectures are presented separately here, you might very well find yourself combining elements of a lecture and elements of a presentation.


Aspect Presentation Lecture
General context
  • Stands alone
  • Might be within the context of a series of lectures, but those are generally unrelated
  • Fits within the context of a series of lectures, a whole course, and even a whole program
Focus of event
  • “Telling” to convey a few points and/or findings
  • Helping students learn the material
  • Colleagues
  • Students
  • Information is important within the context of your research, and for its connections to related fields
  • What do I want my students to learn and why?
  • What impression should my audience leave with?
  • What do I want my students to learn and why?


Aspect Presentation Lecture
  • Often receive an introduction from organizer – silence already achieved
  • Use interesting statistics, puzzling questions, etc. to keep attention
  • You start the lecture (e.g., “May I have your attention please?” or “Let’s get started”) • Wait for silence before beginning lecture
  • Remind students of what was covered in the last class, then preview new material
Amount of content
  • Because you are just “telling” your audience about the material, you can deal with many points in a short amount of time
  • Limit yourself to about 3 main concepts/50-minute lecture
Organization of content
  • Generally divided according to research headings (e.g., introduction, purpose, methods, findings, conclusions)
  • Structure varies depending on material and course structure (e.g., topic by topic, chronological, problem–centered, etc.)
Explanation of relevance of content
  • Generally only given in introduction and conclusion
  • Is critical in motivating students to listen
  • Helps students retain information
  • May need to be restated throughout lecture
Define/explain unfamiliar terminology
  • Needed to follow material
  • Audience’s knowledge of your topic may be quite varied
  • Needed to follow and learn material
  • Know the amount of background information your students possess
Use of connections
  • Harder to do since presentations are often “stand alone” (vs. series of lectures)
  • Might want to outline implications for other related fields
  • Critical in helping students understand and cognitively organize new information in their minds
  • Use to link new material to previously learned material
  • Use to explain relationships between key topics
Use of repetition
  • Repeat or redefine the main concepts when you discuss them – your audience cannot go back to what you said 20 minutes ago
  • Use a preview and review of the main points at the beginning and end
  • Use to emphasize main concepts and highlight what students need to learn/retain
  • Repeat and rephrase the main points throughout your lecture
  • Try to summarize each subsection
  • Need a definite ending to signal closing (“In conclusion,” or “Today I’ve told you…”)
  • Recap your main findings / main points
  • Wrap up class with a review of the day’s material AND a preview for next day


Aspect Presentation Lecture
  • Generally not expected of presentation participants
  • Expected of students, so consider what you want your students' notes to look like when designing a lecture and your audio/video materials
Interactive activities
  • Generally are none, but they can be incorporated if desired or if audience expects them
  • Use them when possible to break
    the flow of the lecture, emphasize
    key material, or provide ‘hands-on’
Question strategies
  • Few, if any, questions from presenter (generally just rhetorical or call for show of hands)
  • Use to verify students’ understanding of concepts, consolidate their knowledge, and break up the flow of the lecture
  • Prepare questions to ask students during the lecture
Receiving questions
  • Generally are accepted from the audience at end of a presentation
  • Accept questions throughout the lecture
Building rapport
  • Is still an important part of presenting
  • Showing a lack of professionalism or a lack of aptitude can have negative consequences on how your peers perceive your credibility
  • Set a positive environment from the first day of class
  • Showing a lack of professionalism or a lack of aptitude can have negative consequences on the classroom environment for the whole term
Scheduled breaks
  • No scheduled break during short presentations (< 1 hour)
  • Need to have scheduled breaks for long lectures (e.g., 3 hours)

Delivery and materials

Aspect Presentation Lecture
Delivery skills
  • The delivery skills involved in a lecture and a presentation are the same
  • The delivery skills involved in a lecture and a presentation are the same
Visual aids
  • Audience is unlikely to take notes, so avoid overloading them with information
  • Presenters generally use overheads or PowerPoint for a more “professional” look
  • Generally pre-prepared, so not as flexible as visuals for a lecture
  • Use to support your lecture, not replace it, and to provide important information
  • Remember that students will write down everything you put on visual aids
  • Include only main points, critical information and definitions
  • Use headings and subheadings to help your students organize the material
  • May use the blackboard, overheads, PowerPoint, or a combination
  • Often created in real-time during class to reflect outcomes of interactive exercises or to help pace lecture
Other audio/visual materials
  • Not commonly used, often due to time constraints and audience expectations
  • Can use videos or demonstrations to illustrate key points
Handouts or course notes
  • Provide an outline as well as relevant diagrams/pictures etc.
  • Can include the full details of what was presented, due to limited audience note-taking (e.g., print out compressed version of slides)
  • Use as a teaching tool, so use headings and subheadings, and include only main ideas so students can annotate with material from lecture
  • Use also to engage students and provide incentive to attend lectures
  • Always include a copy of visual information, as it is often copied with errors
Flow of talk
  • Design discrete points to flow without interruption from beginning to end
  • Keep in mind that the average attention span does not exceed 15- 20 minutes
  • Divide lecture material into 10-15 minute segments
  • Use activities, summaries, and questions to break up the flow and to help maintain the learner’s attention span

CTE teaching tips


If you would like support applying these tips to your own teaching, CTE staff members are here to help.  View the CTE Support page to find the most relevant staff member to contact.

teaching tips

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