Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Case for Teaching Part-Time at the University Level

During a networking event last week a new acquaintance asked me why she should teach part-time at a local university. I’ve written on my blog and published elsewhere about my adjunct teaching experiences. But I’ve yet to make the case for part-time teaching. After reflecting on the topic here’s my concise response.  

It’s not the pay that attracts adjunct instructors.  You’ll find an hourly wage that's barely above the minimum at some institutions.  That rate covers preparation, teaching time, student meetings, grading, and other activities.  It does not include time and expenses associated with travel. 

How about prestige?  An association with a well-known educational institution could lend you some. But the part-time university instructor is low on prestige and perquisites. That’s regardless of education, skill, and passion for teaching.

No, it’s not about money or glory.  It’s a lot more than that. It’s about loving learning and wanting to share it. It’s about shaping others’ perspectives on your subject. It’s about being a showman, entertainer, and ringmaster all rolled into one.

Teaching is also about practicing, polishing, and mastering a skill set. You need to learn to evaluate instructional needs, develop a syllabus, design lesson plans, and advise students.

The bottom line, for me, at least, is the connection with the students. It’s witnessing the glimmer in their eyes when they’ve excited by a topic.  It’s hearing the ahas from new insight gained during a role-playing activity. 

I relish these experiences. I suspect that most instructors who’ve taught as long as I have do so as well.  That’s why we continue to seek out the classroom. I believe that’s why my new acquaintance should as well. 

Friday, July 15, 2016

The Path to Powerful Self-Introductions at Business Networking and Referral Groups

It’s said that only two things in life are certain: death and taxes. As a member of a business networking and referral group (like BNI and LeTip), you can add a third: your self-introduction at every meeting. 

Your self-introduction is an invaluable marketing tool. Guests and visitors may only hear that much about your business. Members will hear it week after week.  Given the importance of these words, it’s worthwhile to spend time considering their purposes and related challenges. You’ll also want to take full advantage of recommendations to make best use of this precious time.

Your self-introduction has three main purposes:

1. To communicate who you are; the value you offer to clients; what you do; and what problem or situation you address that’s a good referral from other members. 

2. To be memorable, as you want to be immediately thought of when a need comes up for services you provide.  

3. To encourage action in the form of referrals to prospective clients from members, visitors, and other guests to your group.

You’ll face three challenges when preparing and delivering your self-introduction:

1. It’s short! Thirty seconds or even a minute (depending on your group’s procedures) is not much time to share information about your business.

2. You’ll repeat your introduction every week to the same core audience, so there’s a risk they’ll tune out eventually even if your introduction is outstanding.

3. You’ll tend to take for granted that this core audience understands and appreciates everything that you do and the numerous ways you help your clients.

Here are three recommendations for helping you meet these challenges and deliver a self-introduction that has long-lasting impact:
1. Develop a core self-introduction that answers the question “Who I am and the value I offer my clients,” following this structure:

  • Begin with statement that captures audience’s attention.  Example: “You may enjoy eating pretzels, but there’s no need for you to look like one.  And that’s the risk you take when your spine is out of alignment.  My name is John Doe.  As a chiropractor. . .”
  • Highlight how you improve your client’s condition.
  • Mention something that makes you different or qualifications you have for your work.
  • Repeat your name and the name of your business.

2. Develop other possible introductions on different themes. For example, 

  • A case study discussing how you have helped a specific client.
  • Time-sensitive information, e.g. year-end tax advice given by a CPA at meetings in November and December.
  • Other tips, e.g. things you should consider when buying homeowners insurance, with one tip given each week over a period of weeks.  

3. Prepare each of these introductions in writing, then practice repeatedly to check timing and flow of information. 

Business networking and referral groups represent a considerable investment of time and money. Spending the time to prepare engaging presentations increases the likelihood you’ll repeat the benefits you seek. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

When You Are the Speaker Who Will Be Introduced

You rise from your seat and head towards the lectern to deliver your presentation. Meanwhile, your host introduces you. You want these initial remarks to support your presentation’s main messages, not undermine them. So it’s imperative to ensure you are properly introduced. Here are 7 suggestions on how to make sure your session starts off well.

Write your own introduction. Draw on tips I presented here previously. Triple space copy and use at least 16-point font size to make it easy to read at a glance. 

Practice reading your introduction aloud. Make sure your text sounds pleasing to the ear. Aim for shorter sentences and words that are known to the audience. In general, revise any copy that sounds awkward or might be difficult to deliver. 

Pay special attention to the pronunciation of words, especially peoples’ names.  It's wise to write out how a name or other word would sound phonetically. Many words and names are difficult to pronounce. For example, I would write my last name as FREED MUN. On occasion it’s been mispronounced as Fried (as in French Fried) Man. 

Identify the person introducing you. Connect before the event to let him or her know you’ll provide a written introduction. Provide it at least a few days before the event. Just to be safe, bring an extra hard copy of your introduction with you. 

Encourage your introducer to read the introduction aloud several times before the event. You want him or her to become comfortable with the copy. Nothing is worse than someone looking down and mechanically reading from a written text. Ideally, your introducer will sound natural and engage the audience with some eye contact.

Insist that your copy is presented exactly as you have written it.  You have spent a considerable amount of time preparing for your talk. You have the right to expect skillful delivery of what you have prepared. Your written introduction should not be an opportunity for the introducer to editorialize or ad lib.

Thank your introducer after the event.  Some speakers offer the person a small gift, like a book. At the very least, send a thank you note.

In short, it’s your responsibility to make sure you are introduced as you wish. Make the time to do so in advance of your event. You’ll be glad you did. 


Tuesday, July 5, 2016

9 Reasons Why I Grant Informational Interviews

I’ve written extensively on this blog about informational interviews (see here and here for example). I remain enthusiastic about their potential for learning more about a person’s position, career, organization, and industry. Even with the wealth of information available through sites like Glassdoor, there’s no substitute for direct contact with someone in a profession that intrigues you. 

I’m always flattered when someone reaches out to set up an informational interview. The subject might be working in public relations, higher education, or the social impact sector, among others based on a review of my professional background. Regardless, I benefit as much, if not more, than the individual who makes the request. There are 9 reasons why, as informational interviews enable me to: 
  1. Help someone break into an occupation or transition to another industry.
  2. Take a break from my internal thought processes by turning my focus outward to be of service to someone else.    
  3. Share my experiences with someone who wants to hear about them.
  4. Practice telling my professional story, or more specifically variations of my story highlighting one or more themes.    
  5. Meet a new person or connect at a deeper level with someone I already know. 
  6. Ask someone questions about their work. My curiosity helps me to learn about different career paths and industries. I share this insight with others.  
  7. Draw on my knowledge and creativity to offer what I hope is specific, useful guidance. 
  8. Use my extensive network to connect the person in front of me with individuals and organizations I know. 
  9. Return the favor many others have done for me when granting informational interviews.
A professional acquaintance, whom I’ve know for over 20 years, recently stated, “Of course, I always meet with people who reach out because they believe I might be able to help them. You never know what you’re going to learn in the process.” In short, I can imagine few better ways to help others and to grow as a professional by granting informational interviews. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Stinking Thinking that Inhibits Me from Sharing My Writing

It’s been over three months since I’ve published a new piece here on my blog or any other social media platform. During this time I’ve observed several things about my writing process. I feel inspired to share them. I suspect others confronting similar challenges will benefit; at the very least, identifying my demons in writing helps to minimize their power. 

I’m reluctant to consistently publish on the Internet even though I have more than enough material to share. So I finally tackled the question: What am I afraid of in when it comes to sharing my work online? Here’s my list.

  • My subject or point of view is not original.
  • My perspective is unimportant.
  • What I’m stating is not profound.
  • No one will read my piece.
  • No one will respond to it.
  • I don’t want to share too much online.
  • I may offend someone.
  • I may embarrass myself.
  • Readers may think less of me.

This mélange of stinking thinking prevents me from publishing regularly. The bottom line, I tell myself, is that no one cares if I write or not. So why bother?

I shared this thought at a recent writing workshop. The facilitator looked at me and replied, deadpan, “No one does care. You write because you have to.”  

You write for yourself—no one else. More specifically, you write because you have something you want to say. I know from my own experience that my life is infinitely better when I have done so. 

Now, let me see what I can do to toss that stinking thinking into the garbage can—one article at a time.