Teaching a class when you don’t have much experience in that arena is daunting. Add a computer, a video cloud platform, and a few dozen people watching from their remote spot of choice,and things can get downright weird.
I’ve had a couple of opportunities over the past few months to teach online classes for entrepreneurs interested in learning about content. Here are some tips on how to communicate effectively with people on a screen and why the overall experience was well worth it for me.
— You’re the boss, so drive the discussion: I encouraged questions and discussion because I wanted to make sure people were engaged. But opening that door can send a session off the rails if you aren’t careful. Gently steer people back to your presentation if they stray off-topic or they start to hijack the direction of the class. To make sure the key points are covered, put them in the first half of the session. That way you can be sure to deliver the critical information even if time runs short.
— Build an information stockpile: Another key was to make sure I prepared more material than I needed. Coming up 10 minutes shorter than promised wasn’t an option when people paid to attend. Also, sometimes interactive parts of a presentation (these were challenging online) don’t take as long as you thought or don’t resonate enough to generate questions. Yes, it’s a bummer when your great idea to illustrate a point isn’t a home run but it happens.
— Mute with authority: I heard everything from people eating dinner to barking dogs and all sorts of unidentifiable background noise. Know where the mute button is and don’t hesitate to use it. I attended a virtual presentation recently and it really suffered from interruptions even after the speaker asked people to mute themselves. Control the noise and people will appreciate it and you’ll be able to focus more easily.
— Give the people what they want: I wanted people to take at least one thing from the online session that could be immediately implemented to improve their content. I shared a simple google hack for finding trending topics to boost SEO. I knew I hit the mark at the end when we opened up for questions and there was a good conversation — they were paying attention! The feedback was positive and it was encouraging to see that I connected with the audience.
— Wow! This is great information (for me too): I was about halfway through the first session when it dawned on me that the feedback from participants was valuable for my business. As I covered different topics, I got first-hand information on what types of content-related challenges my audience faced. I had stumbled into a marketing focus group and made me realize that teaching really is a two-way street.