The Awkward Guide

In every situation in life, there's always a way to make a tit of yourself

The Awkward Guide To Group-Based Organised Learning Activities

Lectures, tutorials, seminars

If you’ve ever been to university, or even if you’ve ever attended evening classes, you will have experienced one or all of the above. You will also, no doubt, have noticed  that they have great potential to turn into tremendously awkward situations involving a group of people sitting in a room wishing that someone would say something, anything.


Now, these differ slightly from the rest in that there is usually someone present who is supposedly in charge of making sure that the whole things runs smoothly without lapsing into any uncomfortable awkward pauses. They also differ in that there are relatively few opportunities for inducing any personal awkwardness. Essentially, as long as you manage to avoid making a spectacular entrance by falling down the stairs, making any loud involuntary noises, or laughing a little to loudly at any of the lecturers terrible jokes then you should be ok.

But this is not to say that if you maintain enough self-control to avoid all of those then the lecture will be an awkward-free zone. Oh no, not by any stretch of the imagination. You see, the most potential for disaster resides with the lecturers themselves. They may be the foremost expert in their field, they may have published eloquent articles about terribly complicated things us mere mortals know nothing about, they may even have been internationally recognised as a jolly clever chap. But we all know their weakness, their kryptonite, their Achilles heel – the one thing that has the ability to turn them into dumbfounded, gibbering wrecks… Powerpoint. It is the Joker to their Batman, the Delilah to their Samson, it’s the Piers Morgan to their, well, anyone who isn’t a complete and utter knob really. In short, it is their arch-nemesis.

Whether it’s accidentally including some of their holiday snaps, or spending half an hour searching for one slide which is invariably either astoundingly unhelpful anyway, or simply does not actually exist, as soon as they launch into their presentation with lots of ‘um’ing, peering mystified at the computer screen, and removing of their glasses, you know that the train is rapidly heading out-of-control over the precipice and you’re all stuck inside it.

Tutorials & Seminars

The English Literature department would have us believe that there is a world of difference between a tutorial and a seminar, though quite what this difference might be is something they have never actually explained. I highly suspect that there is no difference at all, because, let’s be honest, they both consist of a group of people sitting in a room trying desperately to sound as though they know what they’re talking about.

Many of the same rules apply here as in lectures: try not to fall over, don’t have an embarrassing ring-tone, and try not to make any involuntary noises (though if it happens to be just before lunchtime then you’re stuffed because you are bound to become the victim of severe and long-lasting tummy rumbles).

However, we can add a couple more to this list, because this time you’re expected to say things and therefore the potential for awkwardness increases exponentially.

1) If you’re pretending to know what you’re talking about then it’s best to stick to short, fairly inconsequential statements. Under no circumstances say anything that invites further questioning or in any way implies that you might know more on the subject otherwise your magnificent charade will start to unravel like a snagged winter cardigan.

2) If by some miracle you actually do sort of know what you’re talking about and would like to actually make a valid point then always make sure you know where you’re going with it before you start talking. If you don’,t you run the very great risk of trailing off, getting tangled up, and generally confusing yourself so much you wonder why you bothered in the first place.


The Awkward Guide accepts no responsibility for adverse reactions to the implementation of advice supplied herein. Side-effects can include: smug laughter, mild disdain, and temporary irritation


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