The paradoxes of lectures
May 13, 2009
One of the themes I explored in Confessions of A Public Speaker are paradoxes around lectures. Here’s my list of strange observations:
- Many people hate lectures but attend anyway. The word ‘lecture’ is often used as a criticism, as in ‘don’t lecture me’. Communication that only flows in one direction has never been much fun (and there’s evidence it’s a hard kind of communication to learn from) but people attend lectures and conferences in droves anyway. Perhaps it’s the easiest and cheapest way to get information they want?
- Lectures are popular but most speakers aren’t very good. Despite the pervasiveness of lectures in universities and at professional conferences, most speakers are not very good. Somehow despite the universal nature of lectures, and the key role they play in some professions (teachers / professors) good speakers are still rare. How can something be so old, and so important, but generally done so badly? (See an open letter to conference organizers and do we suck at the basics?).
- Attention spans are shorter than ever, but lectures on average are as long as ever. Everything has gotten shorter (except perhaps for feature films and TV shows), but most lectures are an hour or longer and most college professors have 60 to 90 minute lecture sessions. There are now popular short forms like lightening talks, pecha-kucha, and ignite, but they are far from mainstream.
Any theories on why these paradoxes occur? Or have you observed other contradictions worth exploring? Let me know.