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Career Goal Professorship: Self-Presentation in Assessment Lectures

By Dr. Dirk Böhmann

A successful assessment lecture can be the crucial factor in clinching a professorship. What do's and don'ts should be observed?

Career goal professorship© Neelz - Photocase.de
A high degree of uncertainty can often be detected among young academics with regard to their personal presentation during assessment lectures to the appointment panel, the so-called "audition". However, a successful assessment lecture can be the crucial factor in clinching a professorship. What specific do's and don'ts should be observed? The following tips derived from appointment practice give a brief overview of the most relevant points. Practice makes perfect! Practice your lecture several times. Hold your lecture in front of people who are not afraid to provide you with constructive criticism. To check your gestures and facial expressions, it is a good idea to practice in front of the mirror.

Observe the time limit set by the appointment panel!

There is nothing that comes across as more unprofessional than unduly exceeding your time limit. As a number of panels have taken to interrupting the assessment lecture once the predefined time has expired, you moreover run the risk of not being able to finish your assessment lecture. As a rule, you will be given a predefined time limit of 15 minutes. Longer lectures of up to 60 minutes are rather unusual, at least in Germany.

Prepare your topic clearly and tailored to the audience!

Although the assessment lecture is of course to be designed as an academic lecture about a specific topic, you should definitely presume that not all of the listeners will be able to entirely follow your topic. A didactically expedient structure is therefore a must. Avoid presenting all branches of the topic at the beginning of your presentation. Concentrate on the key points.

Familiarise yourself with elementary presentation techniques!

A common mistake in the assessment lecture is failure to address the audience. If you are using PowerPoint graphics or similar, ensure you appropriately design the slides and do not overload them with content. If you are using a projector, remember not to turn towards the projection of your slides on the wall, thus holding your lecture with your back to the audience. This is a mistake that is difficult to forgive.

Look at your audience!

However, avoid making too brief or shifting eye contact. This will only make you appear agitated and insecure. You should maintain eye contact alternately with the part of your audience seated to the left and the part seated to the right. Use your hands in a targeted manner to emphasise incisive elements of the lecture. Last but not least, train your voice. Talk to your listeners and not to yourself.

Ask questions!

After the public assessment lecture, there will usually be an internal discussion with the appointment panel. At the end of this discussion, you will definitely be confronted with one question: "Do you have any questions?" It is absolutely essential here that you clearly demonstrate your interest in the professorship and the department.

Further support and practical tips on optimising your interview technique and application documents is available in the service seminar run by the German Association of University Professors and Lecturers "The Professorship - Application and Appointment". The two-day individual application training programme for the appointment procedure is aimed specifically at academics in the field of natural science and engineering or humanities and social science.

German Association of University Professors and Lecturers