Teaching your thing

What’s all this about?

This is about learning to teach whatever it is you do – and why it all comes down to finding your questions, and meeting a family of aliens. Thanks to Ana Bohane Photography – Ana and I had a conversation that resulted in this blog post.

What do I mean by ‘teach your thing’?

By ‘your thing’ I mean something creative that you know how to do, and you probably do it professionally or you take it seriously. It’s down to you what it is – that’s why I’ve called it ‘your thing’.

In this blog post, I mean teaching adults in a face-to-face workshop, but most of the points apply to online courses too. Teaching kids is a different ball game, of course.

Why teach your thing?

  • To connect. Running a workshop is a way to make a direct personal connection with potential clients.
  • To spread your net. Running a workshop is a way to network and make new contacts and to get recommendations.
  • To learn. When you teach your thing, you teach yourself. In other words, you learn (or remember) stuff about your thing.
  • To get known. Running workshops helps to get your brand known and will publicise what you do to people who can’t make your workshop.

Three signs that you’re ready to teach your thing

  1. You’re more of an expert than you think you are: You’ve gained tacit knowledge through actually doing it that you can’t get any other way. Some of it seems to ‘come naturally’ – it doesn’t – you’ve simply had a lot of practise.
  2. You’re ready to reach out and make connections with people in a meaningful way. In a workshop you’ll be helping people to do something they’ve always wanted to do. You’ll be making a deep connection with people over the workshop that will turn them into a fan. A fan is someone who tells other people about you!
  3. People – especially your clients – ask you how you do it. There will be particular questions depending on what your thing might be. For me it’s ‘where do you get your ideas from?’ and ‘Do you write everyday?’ and ‘How do you keep motivated even when you don’t feel like doing it?’ and ‘How did you get into it?’ and ‘Have you published anything?’

Finding a topic

The questions people ask you translate into topics you can teach. Find your topic by jotting down questions relevant to your thing. I’ll apply this to writing as an example:

  • ‘Where do you get your ideas from?’ = ‘How to find ideas’ or ‘Why you don’t need to start with an idea’.
  • ‘Do you write everyday?’ = ‘Forming a writing habit’ or ‘Finding time to write’.
  • ‘How do you keep motivated even when you don’t feel like doing it?’= ‘Don’t wait until you feel like it’ or ‘Staying motivated’.
  • ‘How did you get into it?’= ‘Becoming a writer’.
  • ‘Have you published anything?’= ‘How to get published’.

 If you can’t think of any questions people ask you do this:

  • Carry a notebook and jot down the question every time a client or friend gets curious about what you do.
  • Write down the questions you asked before you started doing it.
  • Run an online survey and ask people what they’d like to know about your thing.
  • Think in terms of beginners – and go through what? where? when? where? how? and why?

Meet the aliens

Take your thing and break it down into small steps. Imagine three aliens have come to planet earth and want to learn your thing. What’s the first thing they need to know? Can you break it down any further? What do they need to know before that? What about before that? If you need practice, try teaching the alien family to boil an egg. How far back do you need to go?

Nervous about teaching?

Identify why – is it fear of speaking in front of groups? Are you worried someone will ask you complicated question? Note it down – it’s the first step towards doing something about it. Talk to someone who’s got experience of teaching their thing. Try teaching your thing to one or two people first, informally, or co-teach a workshop with someone who’s done it before.

Won’t I create competitors?

  • You might – but competition is good, right? It proves there’s a market.
  • You probably won’t – we’re talking beginner-level workshops here. Think about the last time you took a workshop. What motivated you? For me it was an Alexander Technique workshop. I don’t want to set up a business as an Alexander teacher. I want to learn the benefits of Alexander and how I can build them into my life. You’re more likely to create customers than competitors. I’m signing up to Alexander sessions with the guy who taught the workshop, because I like him, and because I made an initial connection with him in the workshop.

xxx Louise


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