What It Pays to Speak and Teach
Time to read: 5:42.
Learning can often feel like a solo, passive venture. We sit in front of a teacher, and we soak in their wisdom. While this describes much of my college experience, it was the moments of collaborating with my classmates that truly changed how I view learning.
To pass difficult computer science classes at Rutgers, I formed a study groups with Derrick Larane (co-owner at Local Wisdom) and several of our classmates. We all met at The Hill Center on Busch Campus, where we did our homework together and prepared for upcoming quizzes and tests. We would teach each other like so: one person would answer one part of a problem, and then someone else would use that answer to solve the next part of the problem, and so on. Eventually, we’d order pizza and continue working late into the night.
As those group sessions progressed, Derrick and I realized that teaching each other concepts and talking about them together made it easier for us to get a more in-depth understanding of the information. We felt accountable to the group and responsible for its successes and failures. That pressure inspired us to make the extra effort and commit to getting to the right answers in the right way.
Since those study groups at Rutgers, a lot has changed—but that drive to teach and to speak to groups most certainly has not. I’ve given guest lectures at colleges (Rutgers and TCNJ), spoken at conferences and events (ALI Conferences, Business Marketing Association, and the Project Management Institute), been interviewed by thought leaders (Chuck Chats), and joined mentoring programs (Women Unlimited Lead Program).
Teaching is also a part of our mantra at Local Wisdom. Our marketing isn’t about telling everyone that we’re the best and why we’re great—it’s about educating others on the many topics we’ve learned about (and continue to learn about) as the years go by.
So, why should you think about speaking and teaching? Well, because it will help you:
1. Gain expert knowledge
Teaching others forces you to take more of an interest in your subject matter, immerse yourself in it, and hold some accountability for other people’s successes. You’ll find yourself researching related materials, interviewing other experts, and digging through your experiences to make sure that what you say is valid. As a result, each time you teach, you’ll also learn.
2. Become a better leader
Teachers are automatically leaders. If you’re a teacher, all eyes are on you. It’s up to you to lead people to a better place or a better understanding. That’s what a good leader does: help people see a vision of the future and plot a course to get them there. You’ll learn how to do that and adapt yourself to a variety of different personalities and learning styles.
3. Excel in public speaking
Speaking and teaching skills don’t improve overnight. The more you speak, the better you get. Practice makes perfect. The more you talk about a particular subject, the more you want to learn about it. Eventually, you’ll be able to answer any questions you’re asked about it.
4. Connect with people
Sometimes, you may find yourself isolated. There may be no one around who can validate your ideas or give you the wisdom you need to push a concept forward. Talking and teaching allows you to connect with people after you speak. It helps you build a strong network of peers who can give you feedback and tips on what you can do to improve in the future.
5. Feel good about yourself
There is nothing more rewarding than seeing your audience on the edge of their seats, waiting for you to drop a nugget of knowledge and frantically jotting down notes when you do. After such an experience, you’ll find yourself gaining confidence in the subject matter. You’ll learn to articulate complex themes and ideas, and you’ll increase your capacity to share your insights with those around you.
The next time you get the opportunity, teach someone something—anything at all. It can be one person or a large audience, but either way, I encourage you to take that step forward. It will be as rewarding for you as it will be for them.
If you’d like to see how I teach groups, visit my workshop, “Transitioning into a Leadership Role,” on November 29, 2017, at the Executive and Leadership Communications conference in Chicago. I hope to see you there—and, someday, I hope to see you speak.