In the journey your firm's professionals are making towards becoming recognized as a thought leader or expert in their field, they shouldn’t neglect to spend some time in the classroom -- even if it is a virtual classroom. Teaching is a great way to develop themselves into thought leaders, and to be recognized as such. Some ways:
Teaching helps them learn
It’s been said that the best way to learn something is to teach it. It helps in several ways:
- Finding good ways to explain their ideas can be used in other contexts -- such as a business-development meeting with a prospective client, or in a proposal
- They learn from students’ comments and questions -- particularly about which of their ideas need to be expressed in different ways
- They're required to keep up to date on developments -- for example, I recently found that my standard presentation on LinkedIn needs to have some screen grabs updated
- They get a chance to think through your ideas in greater depth -- as I found when I needed to do a webinar recently for the Society for Marketing Professional Services that was 90 minutes long, nearly double my usual presentation length
Teaching helps boost your credibility
I’ve often wondered why some of my colleagues go to the trouble of teaching evening courses at universities and colleges. The pay tends to be low, particularly when factoring in the prep time and commuting time. Sometimes the students can be demanding -- particularly when given a grade that is less than what they (or their parents) want.
Yet I also noticed the feelings of respect I have for the fact that these colleagues are considered knowledgeable enough to successfully land a teaching engagement. I’m well aware that even though the financial rewards are scant, there is a lot of competition for those teaching slots.
Then I realized, that credibility is a big benefit through being associated with a name-brand academic institution. Some of my colleagues who teach at a university seem to miss no opportunity to remind their network that they’re teaching.
At the Content Marketing World conference in September 2014, I attended a session on “Energy University,” a series of online courses provided by Schneider Electric. This program helps to develop the company’s image as a source of solutions, and is also a revenue generator for Schneider.
Teaching boosts one's self-image
Some people suffer from a crushing level of anxiety and low self-esteem when it comes to thinking of themselves as having something to offer. It gets in the way when they develop new client relationships, as it’s hard to sell if you don’t have confidence in the “product” -- which in this case is your expertise. They also have trouble setting and justifying rate that are in line with the benefits that they offer.
Through comments they get from their students -- even if it’s typed comments received from an online course -- they get a chance to see their expertise for what it’s worth. This is reflected in renewed confidence in what they’re offering -- and this in turn is reflected in greater acceptance by clients and prospects.
A wider range of teaching vehicles available
The well-known Khan Academy started when a man with no experience teaching wanted to find a way to help his young nephews and nieces understand their math homework.
So he developed a series of simple videos, just him and a whiteboard, posted on YouTube. This has grown into a widely-known series of teaching aids that have helped possibly millions of children do better at science and math.
There are many options for teaching now available. Some of these are:
Traditional classroom teaching: This can be the most personally rewarding, as you get to interact personally with your students. As a consultant who normally works out of a suburban townhouse, having personal interaction with people is important to me. Maybe to you too. It can also be good from a business perspective, if any of your students -- or their employers -- are prospective clients for your firm's services.
Classrooms elsewhere: Each month, I teach a one-hour session on LinkedIn for job seekers, at a social services agency in my community. These aren’t potential clients -- many of them are recent immigrant to my country -- but teaching these sessions force me to stay current (Reason #1 above), boosts my credibility (#2) and reaffirms to me that I know something about LinkedIn (#3).
MOOCs: Massive Online Learning Courses: I haven’t done any of these personally, but it’s a fast-growing area of development, and I expect to get involved soon. The financial picture is evolving fast as well. These are generally university-level courses that are taught by video available online; generally free of charge, although to take the exam and gain credit, there’s a fee.
Online learning providers: Sources such as Udemy (udemy.com) provide a wide range of courses, including one by me so far, working on more. These are video courses that I prepare in a simple home studio, and edit myself (planning to outsource this; it’s time-consuming to produce video of a quality required in today’s market).
Podcasts: Audio-only podcasts are widely available through platforms such as iTunes and Soundcloud. They work well as teaching vehicles because they are highly portable and users can listen to them while doing other things: driving, working out at the gym, walking, maybe jogging (although I always have trouble keeping the ear buds in when running). The equipment for doing podcasts is low-cost -- probably the most expensive piece of equipment you’ll need is a microphone such as the Blue Yeti that I use, shown above (a headset with microphone works well too).
So, ask yourself:
- What topics do members of your firm know enough about to teach?
- Would developing teaching resources on those topics help them demonstrate thought leadership?
- What are your next steps for helping them get their ideas in front of potential students?