Teaching is not just about content. It is a relational experience. It will take some work and practice, but these practical tips will help you to connect with people in an engaging way when you teach.
If you are well prepared, you will be less self-concious and people will find you easier to relate to. If you have a confident grasp of what you’re planning to say, you won’t be tied to your notes or at a loss for what to say next. This will help you pay more attention to the people in the room.
Preparation will help you relax. If you’re uptight, people can sense it. But when you relax, it’s easier for people to feel at ease and to feel connected with you. These are people you care about and like being with. Enjoy sharing this time with them.
Don’t adopt a “preachy” style of speaking. Talk to the people as if you were having a chat in their living room. It’s okay to express a range of emotions – you might do that in a personal conversation. But don’t make it sound like you’re acting. Just share your heart as if you were with friends.
Nothing is more engaging than a smile. A smile creates an immediate connection. If you need to, write it on every page of your notes: “SMILE!” Even difficult or challenging issues can be handled with a smile. When you talk about a tough subject, you don’t want to be flippant or funny. But your smile conveys kindness and grace rather than condemnation.
Make eye contact.
People feel connected when you speak to them face to face. You can do that even in a large auditorium. Don’t look out the window or at the sound booth. Look at people’s faces. If your point is addressed to men, look some men in the eye. (Or teens. Or grandparents. You get it.)
Train yourself at this by finding someone in the room who is really tuned in to you as you speak (there is always one). Talk directly to him or her. Their responsiveness will encourage you. As you gain confidence, branch out and engage more and more people eye-to-eye.
Connect with the whole room.
Don’t focus just on the people in front of you. Move your attention around between the front and the back of the room. Turn to the left, the center, and the right. You might even walk a bit toward the section you’re addressing. Don’t move like a windshield wiper, but linger in each section for a while – long enough for people to feel like you’re having a conversation with them.
- Watch the video together or invite someone to summarize the topic.
- What is your initial reaction to this video? Do you disagree with any of it? What jumped out at you?
- What are some things public speakers do that you find personally engaging?
- What are some things speakers do that you find boring or off-putting?
- What are some practices that help you feel well-prepared before you teach?
- Is it possible to be too relaxed or too conversational when you teach? Why or why not?
- What are some subjects where it is not appropriate to smile as you teach on them? Why?
- Write a personal action step based on this conversation.