HealthApril 14, 2020

How to get the most out of medical lectures

By: Whitney J. Palmer

Medical lectures are a vital way to stay informed, whether you’re a medical student or a practicing physician. Still, there’s an art to making listening to a lecture as productive as it can be. Here’s how to make sure you’re absorbing the most important details.

Getting the most out of medical lectures

To maximize the value of each medical talk you see or hear, consider these tactics before, during and after the session.


  • Complete any relevant reading before attending the lecture. Being exposed to important related information ahead of time gets your short-term memory ready to learn and makes it easier for you to absorb vital details.
  • Review your notes before the talk. Even five or 10 minutes can help surface key concepts so you can apply them to the new information you hear.
  • Come to the lecture with a list of questions. Listen for answers during the presentation and, if your questions were addressed, think of new follow-up questions, whether or not you’ll be able to bring them to the speaker.

Sign up for a free 7-day trial of AudioDigest here.


  • Select a seat near the front of the room. It may sound elementary, but doing this can help you engage with the material and ignore distractions.
  • Silence your phone and shut down your web browser if you’re taking notes on a laptop. Multitasking will only dilute your attention.
  • Put effort into your notes. This will keep you engaged. Focus on main concepts and write down questions as you go.
  • Listen for verbal clues. Does the speaker talk louder when making an important point? Do they slow down? Also pay attention to definitions, examples and lists.


  • Quiz yourself or have a colleague ask you about the medical lecture to see if you can explain the concepts in your own words.
  • Review your notes as soon after the lecture as you can to fill in any gaps. This would be a good time to reach out to the presenter and get the answers to any questions.
  • Depending on how critical the topic is for your work, you might want to summarize your notes into a list of action items you can apply going forward. You might also want to see if you can get a copy of the lecture notes or slideshow for reference.

The benefits of medical lecture recordings

There are times, of course, when you aren’t able to attend a talk you want to hear or you come across a recording of a lecture that seems valuable to you. On-demand access to recorded lectures comes with unique benefits. While the recommendations listed above still apply, there’s even more you can do with recordings to make sure you’re getting the most out of the lecture.

  • Find the right time: Remote listening means your schedule comes first. Instead of trying to take in new information when you’re overwhelmed with other things, sit down to listen when it makes sense for you. You can do it while commuting or during other hard-to-fill gaps in your calendar. You can even listen to the recording in pieces if that’s the most convenient way to fit it in.
  • Listen again: One of the bonuses of lecture recordings is that you can play them more than once. If something is confusing, stop and rewind. The more you hear the information, the better you’ll understand and remember it.
  • Press pause: Unlike a live lecture where you have to take notes in real time, you can stop a recording to make sure you’re taking the most accurate, comprehensive notes possible. If you need to look something up to clarify a point, go ahead.
  • Ask questions: The lecturer might not be readily available when you’re listening to the recording, but you may be able to reach out via email to get clarity about any confusing details. Even if you can’t, articulating questions helps you engage with the material.

Lectures and CME

Medical lectures aren’t just ways for students and residents to gain knowledge. They can also be a chance for practicing physicians to earn continuing medical education (CME) credit. With tools like AudioDigest, the same is true for lecture recordings.

AudioDigest gives you access to constantly updated information from leading authorities, and its recordings make it easy to keep up with the latest trends in your specialty from the comfort of your own home. When it comes to CME, it’s especially important to take notes, since you’ll have to answer follow-up questions to earn credit.

Whether you’re attending a medical lecture at a conference or listening to one on your couch, it’s important to think beforehand about how you’ll get the most value possible from it. Try a few of these strategies the next chance you get.

Whitney J. Palmer

Get exclusive access to evidence-based audio lectures and study materials — including written summaries, suggested readings, and test/quiz questions. 

Back To Top