Teaching is a Privilege, Treat it as Such

Jun 25, 2018 business
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I’ve been to conferences where I’ve shelled out my hard-earned money to attend, been to free local meetups, and all kinds of presentations in between. One thing that I’ve heard more than once, though, is a variation of this:

I’ve just finished this presentation 30 minutes ago, sorry!

Sorry is right. This isn’t cool. It’s time to stop this comment and this attitude. Let’s talk about why.

I’ve Invested In You

Maybe I’ve paid to attend this conference (regardless of if you’re paid for your talk, it doesn’t matter). If I haven’t, I have a bunch of other things I could be doing with my time. But, I’ve decided to invest my time in what you have to say. Perhaps I respect or like you, or I’m just very interested in the topic. Either way, I’ve said I’d like to spend time listening to, learning from you.

When you say something like this, it makes my experience feel cheap. I feel like this presentation isn’t that important, and thereby I’m not feeling like I’m that important. Now, I don’t need special treatment, but we’ve entered into a social contract, you’ll do your best to present information, and I’ll do my best to learn from it and give back in other ways. Don’t make me feel less-than, that I’m just “so lucky” to be near you. This tells me indirectly that your time is more valuable than mine.

Teaching Is Serious Business

How many times have we forgotten the great teachers that have impressed us? It’s pure hubris to imagine that most of us got to where we are by our own accord. In fact, whether it was interactive, written, podcasts, videos, etc, you’ve been taught by someone else. You’ve taken that information and modified it, expanded it, sure. But you were taught by someone else. This is valuable, this teaching has made you you.

When you go to give a presentation, you’re now in the driver’s seat. You have an audience who wants you to succeed, and they want their own version of success from it. You’re in a place to change them, to expand them, to lift them up. Take this serious. Invest the time to give back in the same way that others did to you.

If You Can’t, Then Don’t

Another excuse I hear is that I’m just so busy, I hardly had any time for this presentation. Ok, I get that you’re busy, but you’re not the only person who’s capable of teaching and transmitting this information, are you? It’s very rare that that’s the case.

Take the time to delegate, to teach someone else, so they can put their heart and soul into this. If you make just a adjustments to your schedule, you can go from teaching 100 people to just 1 - but that one person can now spread that knowledge. Now, you’ve not only just taught that 100 people something indirectly, you’ve built up the next generation of teachers. You’ve taught someone how to fish, not just gave them the fish - as the old saying goes.

Apologizing Does Not Make You Humble

Sometimes presenters feel that they’re not appearing humble enough. Confidence can come across as a cockiness, and no one wants that. So, perhaps the apology is meant to be a form of self-deprecation, a way to cover over that feeling that you’re having.

Let me tell you the truth: most of the time that’s your inner demons telling you that people are judging you, feeling this way about you. They wouldn’t be at this talk if they didn’t find value in what you had to say. Don’t apologize needlessly, falsely, in an attempt to be more likable. Teach, be confident, try to be humble, and then ask for feedback. People will tell you ways to be better, and that’s what you’re really trying to do right, anyway.

Lecture Over

I’ve given many talks and I’ve been to many, many more. All I can tell you is that I find each part of the experience rewarding and enriching. I still get value out of talks that begin with “I just finished this 30 minutes ago…”, but there’s an initial hump I have to get over. Instead, let’s all make a deal to drop that line - its not cool - and dedicate or delegate - to make the best presentations we can.

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