Teach yourself advertising
My parents were both primary school teachers. It’s a noble profession and teachers earn much less than doctors, lawyers and other professionals. I was a teacher once too. The lack of a decent salary was the main reason I left and decided to use my love of words and ideas in the somewhat less noble profession of marketing. I confess that I’ve never looked back particularly wistfully at my life in front of the whiteboard.
Unfortunately, the word ‘teacher’ has some negative connotations. It’s a word with ‘baggage’. The idea of the classroom evokes unpleasant memories for many of us. In conversation, we use phrases such as ‘to teach someone a lesson’ or ‘I don’t like being lectured’ and sadly, for many, the idea of the teacher has been sullied with the abiding memories of sadistic teachers, megalomaniac teachers, psychotic teachers and just plain bad teachers.
It’s a shame because a teacher is simply a person in a room trying to bring some information to life – to an audience whose interest in the subject may be moderate or non-existent. Not long ago, I tweeted: “If you want to know how to sell, try being a teacher. You have to ‘sell’ your subject every day to the toughest customers you’ll ever meet.”
In the late 1990s, I moved from teaching in further education into the world of business, brands and marketing. Initially, I thought the two worlds couldn’t have been more separate and dissimilar. Eventually I realised that my six years as a teacher had taught me skills that would equip me for the rest of my working days – wisdom that applies just as much to pitching and presenting as it does to bringing a brand to life.
Here are a few of those valuable lessons (yes, not ‘learnings’) for teachers, pitchers, presenters and brands:
- If you’re not the centre of attention, you’ll need to be. You do want people to listen, don’t you? You may be an introvert but you’ll need to behave like an extrovert. Pretend.
- There are no rules about how you bring your subject matter to life. You may need to be a joker, an actor, a professor, an artist, a mentor, provocateur – maybe in the course of one lesson, never mind one academic year. Good communicators are chameleonic.
- Form a dialogue with your audience but stay in control of it. Listen respectfully and make way for the many voices in the room but remember that your job as a teacher is to ‘sell’ your subject.
- Show, explain, demonstrate. Don’t tell – disguise the didacticism with some fun.
- Enthuse. If you don’t love your subject and believe in the information, knowledge, ideas and skills you’re trying to elucidate, then how will you ever build enthusiasm in your audience?