Teaching Search: Lights, Camera, Action

In light of Distilled's dedication to education via our webinars, Pro Seminars and link building seminars, I thought it would be a nice change of pace to look at how you go about teach search to others. For the last year I've been working with Bisk Education and The University of San Francisco on their Internet Marketing Certification Program. I was asked by a good friend and PubCon Head Moderator Joe Laratro. I jumped at the opportunity for many reasons, but the main one being that I love teaching.

Remember These Days?

Having just completed my master's degree in business, I know how the education system is in the United States in regards to search marketing. From what I have seen since college, it is years behind the real world, especially in marketing. As a marketing senior at The University of Texas, I was asked to teach the one day of internet marketing in my Marketing Communications class. One day. This was 2004, not 1998. The textbook covered banners and popups. Sigh.

Then in my master's program, I was the "Social Media" and "Internet" person as I always had an opinion (that might be putting it lightly, hehe) in our IT Management and Services Marketing courses. Even my fellow students lacked understanding of the online marketing world. We had debates over privacy, search, and social media. It was fun and very enlightening for me to be reminded that we are the minority in the world.

Universities are getting there in teaching what marketing is today, but new marketers are still unprepared for the online world unless they dive in themselves. We are moving into a heavily mobile social era of marketing and many marketing managers are running to catch up. I've been there: I remember wondering what RSS was in the early years of my career and how it could be implemented to help my company's marketing program.

Therefore, I teach as much as possible about everything under the sun. Many people are scared of teaching, well speaking, but teaching others is so rewarding that I want to impart some tips on teaching search to others. I am hoping that the next time you are approached to teach your executives or peers about search, or asked to do a webinar for clients, that you will embrace the opportunity rather than run screaming.

1. Assume everyone is a beginner ...

Unless you know otherwise. When teaching groups of people that do not perform SEO or anything search related on a regular basis, as many in-house marketers end up doing, they can get very lost with technical jargon. Not everyone knows what rel canonical is or even a 404. Unless you know you are training just advanced people (and there are few times this happens), always assume someone in the audience doesn't know anything. You can skip over stuff, but adding in at the last minute can trip you up. If you are speaking on a panel, this can affect your time on stage (and going over annoys other speakers) and your reviews.  Explain everything.

2. Always approach the audience as friends.

I'm not sure about the rest of you, but I used to look at speakers like they were practically gods. Now don't get me wrong, I still have major amounts of respect for people that speak and teach, especially the bigger names. When I was first asked to speak my first reaction was "I'm not good enough to speak. Those people are better than me! The audience doesn't want to see me." If you are asked to speak, train, or do a webinar, stop that thinking immediately. If you were asked, you ARE good enough. And the audience is there to learn from you. Treat them like your friends, people on your level that just want to hear your story. Taking that pressure off you and putting yourself in that more comfortable position makes speaking easier.

When I speak, I tell stories and find people to look in the eye. When I'm doing training on video, I think of the student that is sitting in front of the computer learning SEO. I speak to that one student. It makes it so much easier if you tell stories of your experience to a friend.

3. On video, enunciate and practice beforehand.

Have you ever looked at a transcript of a video posted to Youtube of yourself? I just did, and you can tell where I was speaking carefully. There are other times that what I said sounds like different words entirely.  If you are taped for training or anything else, try to think of enunciating. As you can see in the video below, courtesy of Bisk Education, I do stumble a lot but that's part of the story telling. What I do wish is that I had practiced more. On video, your facial gestures are very pronounced. This is the first time I've seen myself on camera, and man, talk about eye opening! My tip from this experience is to set up a flip beforehand and practice. :P

4. Don't be afraid to ask (Twitter, other speakers)

The final piece of advice is to ask questions, but not just of your audience. Yes that is a good way to get them to interact (but rather poor, I'm horrible at that one) but what I am talking about here is asking other speakers and presenters about advice. If you need help on a topic, the content for your presentation, ask. Ask your colleagues, ask Twitter. I have friends on the conference circuit that have made powerful presentations by merely asking twitter for their tips on certain topics. It is amazing what others are willing to help you with, you just need to ask.

If you ever need help, you can always find me on Twitter @katemorris. Or even the whole Distilled crew, we are always there to help!

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