How To Make A Lecture Outline?

Last Updated: April 27, 2024

How To Make A Lecture Outline?

Doing lecture in front of a bunch of people, or more, is no joke. Imagine talking and teaching in front of people in a big auditorium.  Even if you are provided with a microphone, a set of slides to aid you in your lecture. You are worried that you may forget the topic you are going to talk about due to stage fright. You are also very worried that your audiences, seating comfortably in their seats, may not pay attention and fall asleep. It seems you might as well talk to nobody at all.

But you can still avoid this scenario if you know what to do. Successful lecturers do not limit to those who are experts of a particular field; they may be bad at public speaking; or those who are outgoing; they may not seem as expert on the field at all. The key to be a successful lecturer is to communicate well the topic you are discussing to the audience. Planning and outlining your lecture is key to make an efficient lecture.

Most of the best lectures, are proven that lecturers invite their  audience to think outside the box and conceptualize about a particular topic or issue. They just don’t limit their lecture into an informative speech. According to Professor David Kennedy of History, he relates that “a good lecture always offers a point of view and an entry into a field of study.”

Successful lecturers also have good intonation when they are speaking. When they are speaking, you get to notice they are speaking in a relaxed and conversational tone. They also don’t depend on their notes; they tend to do some ad-libs as well. They engage themselves rather enjoyably in the themes they are discussing. Their audiences are more likely to pay attention to them rather than those speakers who read their notes in monotonous voice.

Here are some helpful ways for you to refer to be a good lecturer:

The Preparation Stage

To be confident about your upcoming lecture, thorough preparation is needed. The preparation part is the most hectic part, since you have to gather the information for your topic, prepare the materials you need, and practice your speech. If you’re informed way ahead of time you that you need to conduct a lecture, practice as much as you need to; especially if it’s your first time. However, if you’re given a small amount of time to do it, divide your time in preparing your lecture. You need to focus on the following:

  • Make an introduction that will set a thorough and interesting agenda.
  • Make an outline of your lecture: main points, examples, or demonstration.
  • Prepare your conclusion that will  answer the and string your lecture together and place your topic in the wider context of the course.
  • Don’t limit yourself in power point presentation. In case if there’s technical difficulties, use alternative props (like visual aides).

Make Your Lecture Precise

  • Limit the main points in a lecture to five or fewer.
  • Create effective visuals, analogies, demonstrations, and examples to reinforce the main points.
  • Share your outline with students.
  • Emphasize your objectives and key points in the beginning, as you get to them, and as a summary at the end.

Basic Presentation Skills

You don’t need to be a charismatic showman to deliver a strong lecture; begin by refining your basic presentation skills.

  • Avoid reading your lectures verbatim and maintain eye-contact with the audience at all times. Additionally, don’t stare at the blackboard or projection screen.
  • When making eye contact, look at specific individuals. They are comfortable with about 5-10 seconds of eye contact.
  • Speak clearly and go slower when students are taking down notes.
  • Try taping your lecture on a tape recorder and listen to yourself.

Engage Your Audience

  • Use a quote, dramatic visual, an anecdote, or other visual material to focus the attention of the audience.
  • Try to link new material to students’ prior knowledge (i.e. common experiences, previous coursework, etc.).
  • Show enthusiasm when giving the lecture.
  • As much as possible, use various hands-on exercises and simulations.

Get Feedback

  • Observe students’ non-verbal communication: note taking, response to questions, eye contact, seating patterns, and response to humor. Are they “with” you?
  • Use the “minute paper” or other assessment techniques. Ask students to respond in one or two sentences to the following questions: What stood out as most important in today’s lecture? What are you confused about? Do this every few lectures—it will take you about 15 minutes to review the responses and you’ll learn an enormous amount about your students.
  • Give quizzes periodically on lecture objectives, not obscure material. Are they getting it?
  • Conduct midterm teaching evaluations or simply ask the students for suggestions and comments at the midpoint of the quarter.

Handling Questions

You should encourage your students to ask questions, although instructors have different preferences or styles on how to handle them. Additionally, let your students know if they can interrupt with questions or let them save it for the end of the class. Here are some tips for encouraging, as well as responding to questions:

  • Don’t simply ask “Any questions?” with your back turned to the audience. Make it more genuine or personal such as “What parts of this are still confusing for you?” or “What do I need to explain again?”
  • Make sure you completely understand the student’s question before replying with a long explanation. Restate the question and let the student repeat it for clarity purposes.
  • Consider reserving two to three-minute blocks for questions at transition points in the lecture. This reinforces your commitment to answering questions and will encourage them to review the material that was discussed.
  • Don’t pretend if you don’t know the answer to the question. You can let the student know that the question does not the fit the concept of the discussion or lecture, and reply that you will give him an answer in the succeeding classes. Also, you can let the student investigate the answer and discuss it with the class the next day.


Make sure you take prerogative and involve your students by giving out lecture slides or notes. This will encourage student participation as well as create learning exercises for the whole class or audience to enjoy.

Successful lecturers are not simply those with the most expertise or the most outgoing personalities. Knowledge of the subject and comfort in public speaking are helpful, but a lecture is only successful if it communicates the material effectively to the listeners. Thoughtful planning is the key.

Defining and Limiting the Topic

The topic of the lecture may be assigned or left to your discretion. Even when the topic is given in the syllabus, there still is latitude in terms of what angle you take and which aspects you choose to highlight. In order to narrow the scope of the topic, consider the following question: “What am I trying to accomplish?”

In other words, what should students know or be able to do at the end of your lecture? You need to be very specific in your answer to this question. Starting to prepare a lecture without a precise vision in mind can lead to all kinds of problems. Let your goal(s) guide you and help you discern what to include and what to leave aside.

  • Keep in mind the audience and its ability level: undergraduates (and at what level), graduate students, or both.
  • Also, think about how much time you have. What can you realistically cover in the time you have? Avoid the temptation to do too much or to feel that you need to say everything you know.

Lectures are not about the slide presentations but the delivery of the speaker to keep not only the audience awake, but also informed and entertained. We hope the guide above will help you in creating a lecture outline for your future lecture engagements.

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