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Seven things I learned from giving my first seminar

Recently, I blogged about a presentation I gave to artists, teaching them the basics of D.I.Y. media relations. I’ve sat on panel discussions before and spoken in front of the Association for Women in Communications South Florida (as president and past president), but I’d never had the opportunity to stand at the front of a room under bright lights, and speak for 45 minutes about one of the topics I’m most passionate about. And I can’t wait to do it again. Here are five things I learned from this new experience:

  1. Organizing the presentation: Make it a thought process. Lead the audience step by step through this thought process, with as few detours as possible. Not only is it a very effective teaching technique, but it relieves a lot of pressure to memorize, memorize, memorize. Standing up in front of a room full of people, looking expectantly at you, can be a hair trigger to losing your words (and your mind, and your composure)  all of a sudden. If you work yourself through your own thought process, you’ll never forget what you need to cover.
  2. Wear something comfortable – physically and psychologically. I chose my go-to jeans, a comfy blouse, and a blazer that never fails me. If you’re up there tottering in heels too high, or uncomfortably shifting around a wedgie, or worrying if your bra is showing through, your level of effectiveness is going to be inversely proportional to the level of your uneasiness. Pick something you know looks good, feels good, and is going to hold up under hot lights and moving around on stage.
  3. Gauge your audience. When I arrived, I wasn’t sure how experienced my audience was with media relations, or even (what we might consider simple) tasks like setting up a Youtube channel. And I was surprised to learn what they needed to learn. Yes, the “raise your hand if…” opener is a bit cheesy and overused, but if I didn’t ask a few of those before I began, I might have ended up teaching people what they already knew, or failing to teach them what they really needed to know.
  4. Shut up early and let the audience take over. That “15 minute” Q&A session is never, ever going to be enough time for everyone to pose their questions. Next time I give a seminar, I’m going to hold it to 35 minutes and then let the discussion do the rest.
  5. Get there early and stay there late. Not only is this another great way to gauge your audience before you begin your seminar and find some familiar faces you can use as anchors in your view of the audience, but it also lets the “never long enough” Q&A session continue afterwards. Hand out a couple of business cards. Invite people to contact you later with more questions. The closer you get with your audience and the more information you have time to provide, the more you – and they – will get out of your seminar.

Any experienced speakers out there like to weigh in? Leave a comment!

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