February 26th, 2017
Last Wednesday I had the pleasure of delivering my first Writing Masterclass in London to seven internal communications professionals on behalf of Rachel Miller and All Things IC.
It was a mixture of me talking, group discussion and exercises, and the main objective was for the attendees to take away practical writing skills they could start using at work the very next day.
It was a great session full of lively conversation, insightful questions and sharing of experiences, both mine and the people sat around the table.
And that’s the great thing about All Things IC Masterclasses, you can learn as much from the other attendees as you can from the tutor. And as the tutor, I also took away hints and tips from others in the room that I’ll certainly be using in the future.
For me, this masterclass was as much about imparting wisdom from my own experiences as it was about working on my professional development and pushing myself out of my comfort zone. So, I thought I’d share some of the things I learnt about preparing for, and delivering, a masterclass.
As an introvert, being a tutor of a masterclass, might not seem like an obvious choice. And to an extent you’d be right, as until a few years ago it was definitely out of my comfort zone.
However, that was until I read a book called Quiet by Susan Cain, which is about the power of introversion, and that ultimately there’s nothing wrong with being an introvert. It was the first time I’d realised it was ok to be me and that my contribution was valuable.
An unexpected outcome of accepting that I was an introvert in a world of work that’s geared towards extroverts was that I grew in confidence, to the point that I now regularly present either through work or in my spare time as a charity volunteer.
I’m not for a second suggesting that presenting or teaching doesn’t require skill, as you only have to watch some of the best in the business to see that it does. However, I am suggesting that you shouldn’t count yourself out, just because you have more introverted tendencies.
Preparation takes a lot longer than you think
I completely underestimated how long preparing for the masterclass would take. At points it was all-consuming as I over analysed whether my explanations were clear, and whether or not I was delivering what people expected. Add in practice runs with friends and amends, and it became a mammoth undertaking.
But it was all worth it. I not only enjoyed collating all of my knowledge into one place, it helped me learn the structure of the day. I took notecards with me fully expecting to use them, and realised halfway through the day that I stopped turning them. I knew my content, because I’d put the time in to prepare fully and I think the day was all the better for it.
It’s a good exercise in collating your own knowledge
The other added benefit of spending a lot of time preparing was realising just how much I knew and how much experience I had. It’s not often that we collate our years of experience unless we plan to pass it on to others. But it’s a brilliant exercise in confidence building as well as identifying areas where we need to improve.
I think personal development plans and appraisals can go some way towards this, but they can often be quite generalised and only reflect on the previous year. So, find an opportunity to share your wisdom and sit down and prepare your presentation – you might be surprised at just how much you do know.
I get a bit ‘jabby’ with a pen
In a coffee break I caught up with Rachel about how the day was going so far. She told me how much she was enjoying it and that she wouldn’t change anything…other than they fact that I seemed to be holding onto a marker pen for dear life while talking and was jabbing it about as I spoke to people.
I had no idea that I did this. A completely subconscious mannerism that I will now work on to stop doing! Getting feedback from peers is invaluable if you want to continue to improve and develop – and don’t just wait for your annual appraisal, ask people all year round.
We’ve also sent feedback forms to attendees so I’m looking forward to seeing what they enjoyed and what I could improve on next time.
It can be very easy to get caught up in the business of delivering or facilitating a masterclass or workshop and forget to actually enjoy it. I deliberately structured mine in a way that called for lots of discussion and sharing as I think it makes the whole day more relaxed, informal and ultimately more enjoyable.
I think one of the obstacles to enjoyment for presenters or tutors is the fear of being asked a question you don’t know the answer to or the feeling that you need to know absolutely everything there is to know on the subject at hand.
But that’s a big ask of anyone. Whoever you are and however long you’ve been doing what you do, you can always learn something new. Don’t forget, you have a room of intelligent people all from different organisations with different experiences – you can learn from them as much as they learn from you. Relax, give yourself a break and try to enjoy it.
For me, delivering a masterclass was a huge achievement and a really enjoyable experience. So much so that I’m going to be doing it all over again on 18 October. And if you’re already pretty confident in your writing skills, check out the other masterclasses on offer throughout the year.