Friday, February 20, 2009

The Harvard Regiment Goes To The OC

I took my lecture about the 20th Massachusetts on the road a few days ago and presented it to the Orange County Civil War Roundtable. I take a good deal of pride in delivering a worthwhile and engaging discussion, and I think Tuesday's episode was a solid effort. The audience seemed to really enjoy it and the syllabus that goes along with the verbiage from me again provided a strong sense of engagement and involvement for the listeners.
One of the highlights of this talk, and really any lecture I've ever delivered, is the Q/A at the end. Usually the queries spin into the subtext of the presentation and allow expansion on other themes, which is a blast. You get other perspectives and ideas, and since you don't prepare specifically for something you can't anticipate, it's a great mental exercise to mine your knowledge base on the spot for a cogent answer. I love that!


Jim Schmidt said...

Mark - Congratulations on the success of your recent CWRT presentation! I agree completely that the very best part of these is the Q&A at the end. Many times I incorporate the subject of the question into a revised presentation. Can you talk a bit more (or point me to a previous post) about the "syllabus" you hand out and why you think it helps engage the audience?

All my Best,

Jim Schmidt

Mark said...

Thanks Jim,
The lecture syllabus that I use is a compilation of images and maps used to accent the verbal content of the lecture. Originally set up in PowerPoint, I've made copies that are handed out at the beginning of the talk and ask the crowd not to look ahead.
The syllabus contains campaign maps, photographic portraits of various personalities, book covers of important texts, photos I took at Gettysburg etc. They are in order and as I move through the lecture, I ask the crowd to turn to the next page in the syllabus.
What this allows for is another level of crowd engagement and participation as they absorb material along with the spoken word.
Example, there is a picture of Henry Abbott as well as the book "Fallen Leaves". I introduce him to the audience early on, then when quoting him later, they know the book they came from. When he is addressed at the end, there is another picture to look at. When you hear his exploits, it's one thing. When you're looking into his eyes while learning what he did and said, it's quite another.
This keeps my audience much more engaged and eager with anticipation. It also gives a much stronger sense of identification. The maps and photos provide excellent context and allow me to focus my narrative on the subject matter at hand, with less time spent on explanation.
I was steeped in this lecture style by Dr. Joan Waugh, who was my professor at UCLA for several courses, and is a master of using multimedia in her lectures.
I'm just starting out giving these lectures, will give another one to the San Diego Roundtable in October, haven't decided on the subject matter yet. Do you use adjunctive material in your lectures, and what do you lecture on?
Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

Mark, from the feedback our group really enjoyed your presentation. I could tell they were following along with the syllabus. You notice none were left on the tables when the people left . Thanks again for visiting us. I am looking forward to hearinf from you when you have your next presentation put together and ready to take it on the road. Isent Coly the pictures I took .

Mark said...

Hi Susan,
I'm really pleased that the lecture was well-received. I had a blast talking to your roundtable and definitely look forward to coming back.
Please feel free to comment here at will and let anyone else you know who may be interested to come join in.

Jim Schmidt said...

Mark - Well, from the unsolicited testimonial I just saw, it sounds like your presentation was indeed a success! Congrats, again!

Thanks also for following up with more info on your "syllabus."

As for my presentations, I've had the privilege of giving 5 different presentations to more than a dozen CWRTs over the past 6 or 7 years. I've either had no visuals at all, overheads, 35mm slides, or PowerPoint slides.

One thing I have always handed out is a sheet of paper with a summary of the talk, contact info, and a place to take notes/questions.

I guess I've be afraid to hand out something like a syllabus out of fear that it would distract the audience, but it sounds like it has been a terrific medium for you and your groups.

I have found that PowerPoint presentations have their hazards: LCD projectors aren't available, they don't work, etc. I've tried to make sure that my "lecture" is interesting enough on its own that it doesn;t stand or fall on whether I have slides...something i've learned the hard way.

Thanks for the advice!

c_hope said...


I wish I could have been there to hear your presentation. Let me know when you are speaking again.


Mark said...

Will do!

Mark said...

Hey Jim,
Your last comment slipped by me, sorry.
I agree with your concerns about Powerpoint, Murphy's Law waiting to happen.
The syllabus was a trial run the first time I gave the talk, but I liked when people were flipping the pages, nodding their heads, and pointing at things.
I had several classes with Joan Waugh, and there was always something to go along with the lecture that was a brilliant augmentation. She's one of the best professors at UCLA and that technique and her comfort with it is a big reason why