This is a frequent theme of mine: if we believe our primary value lies in standing at the front of the room and talking, we are in serious trouble.
Whether we are primarily speakers or classroom teachers, this is true. Standing at the front and talking is a form of information transfer. Audience members and students can find information more easily and cheaper than they can by going to all the trouble it takes to get in front of us.
This is not to say that information is unimportant, nor that effective speaking involves personalityalone. Nevertheless, audiences need a reason to take the trouble of scheduling, traveling (even if just across town), paying fees, and justifying the time spent before they will come hear you speak.
Students may come because that’s the only way to get their tickets punched on the way to a degree. Not only is that a miserable experience for everyone (teacher and student), it also contributes to the demise of higher education. If a degree simply represents absorption of (or at least exposure to) a certain quantity of information, why not simply put it up on a Web page and dispense with the teacher?
In fact, when education is properly understood, the teacher is even more essential today, the Internet notwithstanding.
When audience needs are properly understood, the speaker is even more essential today, the Internet notwithstanding.
In both cases, whether through face-to-face interaction or live interaction via, say, a Webinar, the connection with the person at the front makes it worthwhile for people to pay money and spend time to get together. As a speaker or a teacher, therefore, it behooves us to make the connection.
In other words, the one thing that differentiates what you have to offer from sheer information is simply you. So put you into the equation.
What’s the special point of view/story/experience that you bring to your interactions?
Photo by Flickr user drtel.