Thursday, May 19, 2011

Our Speaker Today

I was in Glasgow yesterday, to meet Allan Gaw, a friend and former colleague, for lunch and to discuss future plans for our book Clinical Biochemistry: An Illustrated Colour Text, which hopefully will go to a fifth edition in the years ahead.

I was early for my appointment and took the opportunity for a stroll along University Avenue and Byers Road. The West End was my stamping ground for many years, but I haven't been back often since I retired. I stood outside the Boyd Orr building in whose lecture theatres I had 'entertained' 200-plus classes of first and second year medical students for most of my career. The building (above) still dominates University Avenue. As I took the photo, memories came flooding back. Happy times!

It must surely have been more than a co-incidence when later Allan delved into his briefcase to give me a signed copy of his new book, Our Speaker Today: A Guide to Effective Lecturing. You see, I had been one of Allan's lecturers way back when he was a student. Turns out I was one he remembered (positively) and he has - embarrassingly - included a very touching acknowledgement! He is currently Director of Operations of the Glasgow Clinical Research Facility.

I read the book last night. I haven't laughed so much when reading a 'text book' for a long time. It really is excellent, containing perfect advice for those having to give lectures and presentations. He doesn't shy away from pointing out what makes a poor lecturer, and what contributes to a bad lecture. And therein lies much of the humour. Allan, the consummate medical educator, has lectured all over the world for twenty-five years and draws on his immense experience.

If you have to give talks, and have never been taught how this should be done well, then read this book! It should be required reading for anyone early in a career that involves speaking in public. Particularly relevant is advice on using PowerPoint. It is available from Amazon, see here, and can even be bought as a download for your Kindle or other tablet. Even if you give presentations on a regular basis, you might recognise yourself as a Seagull, Tart, or Spencer Tracy!

As Allan says, "Please don't read this book if you already think you are good enough. You probably aren't, but with that attitude I am not sure I can teach you anything. DO read this book if, no matter how long you have been giving talks, you think you may have something to learn. That openness to new possibilities means we can work together and all the mistakes I've made don't have to be repeated by someone else."

After a long career, I too recognise in the book all the mistakes I made at one time or another in front of a class. It was certainly an entertaining read to be reminded of them! Allan says these mistakes don't have to be repeated! For the lecture and presentation attendees of today, I wish that could be true.

Pix © Skip Cottage

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