Teacher, Prepare Thyself
by Lisa Lickel
I will be participating in several teaching opportunities this fall in various capacities. Putting yourself forward as a professional, an expert if you will, is one method of promotion. Selling what you know, or experience, can be as valuable as selling your work. Whether you are seeking for places to teach or have been invited, here are six ways to prepare. I invite you to share others as well that have worked or not worked for you.
Know Your Audience
Speaking or teaching? At a conference or a convention? Is the audience there to be mostly entertained, to learn, or to be updated in their field? Do you have an idea of how many will be in the room, in your course or workshop? At the end of a long day? In the middle of lunch? Each of these scenarios asks for slightly difference methods of dissemination. In smaller groups you can often be more familiar and hands-on. If you’re the keynote speaker in front of two hundred people who’ve just had dinner, you’ll need some way to remain credible and engaged while keeping them awake. Be friendly. Greet people. Make eye contact. Smile.
Know Your Subject
Make sure your given or chosen topic is specific. If the coordinator gives you an open time and subject, try to ask what the group has been focusing on lately, or the theme of their last two speakers or classes, if any. Let the coordinator know your topic as needed. Find the most update or appropriate sources of primary and secondary information to share. Never plagiarize but gather information, cite origins, ask any necessary permissions. Rework material or write original discovery to share.
Practice, practice. Some of the best advice I’ve had and share: read or practice your material out loud over and over. You’ll get a great idea of how much material may fit into the time you’re given. It’s usually better to have more material than you think you’ll need but know when to stop at the best point. If you have a handout, have copies ready.
Don’t try to pack your time with too many different types of information. Focus on one point or a series of related points. People remember less than we think, and using one or more other forms of interaction helps drive your point home. Using music, or some audio sensory information, visuals such as props, taking notes, or providing some type of mnemonic device such as 5 E’s… or 6 Methods… or illustration is best and specific.
If you are using a program such as Power Point, have a flash drive copy. Be prepared in case you can’t use the computer at all. If someone else in front of you gives a similar talk or workshop, have a secondary outline of talking points just in case. E-mail your workshop or handouts to another person who’s attending the conference or the coordinator if such arrangements can be made.
I was the keynote speaker at a luncheon during which one person shared information for the group of historical societies there. Unfortunately, it was as if he’d taken my speech and read it out loud. There wasn’t much I could salvage since the topic given to me was vague to begin with: What We Need to Know. The lessons I learned were to have a backup chat or even a discussion point question and answer conversation prepared, and to get a more specific topic to start with.
And finally, Enjoy – your audience will respond better to someone who’s confident and relaxed more than someone who’s uptight, nervous, and defensive.