I was a little surprised to see a tweet from someone talking about how we shouldn’t be talking about “being connected” with people anymore because everyone should just be doing it. I found it rather interesting as a great teacher would differentiate learning for students and understand that people are are different points in their journey, not simply say, “you should all get this by now”. It should be no different with educators. Differentiation is not just for kids, and if we treat people like that when we are in an administrative position, you will lose more people along the journey then you will gain. I understand the “push” that many people make, and have been guilty of doing this myself, but the support has to be there.
My mentor would say to me when I was frustrated with what I sometimes felt was a slow pace by others was, “not everyone is you”. Because something makes sense to me, it does not necessarily mean it is common practice for others.
Now I have been in keynotes where I have heard the same message over and over. So what can I learn from this? Well as someone who is in an administrator position, and especially someone who does keynotes myself, the “content” is only one part of what is happening in any presentation. I am a huge basketball fan and decided years ago that I wanted to become a referee. When that happened, the way I watched games changed. I wasn’t watching the games as much as I was watching the referees. My focus had shifted onto something different.
This was made abundantly apparent to me when I recently keynoted a conference in Vancouver and Chris Wejr, a good friend and colleague, noted that although he had seen me speak several times, he was more focused on what I did as opposed to what I said. There are great elements of teaching and leadership in many keynotes/talks/presentations, and if you think that you know all of the content being presented, you need to shift your focus. You can learn from the great speakers as well as the bad ones.
For example, I remember seeing a keynote at a conference who started off with saying something that was totally lost on the audience and was a great way to show he was smart, but he made the audience feel dumb. He lost them immediately. Because of that, I really try to focus on taking something complex and making it simple so that is relatable to people, especially in larger settings.
Now for the great lessons that I have learned from others watching them speak.
My brother Alec, who helped me get into speaking, showed me the power of visuals and media to supplement ideas in a talk and was a great way to engage the audience
Dean Shareski taught me that is important to empower the audience to do something great, not for them to feel lesser in their work.
Jenny Magiera showed me that laughter and learning go hand-in-hand and it is way easier to connect people t with an idea when they are smiling.
Adam Bellow showed me to honour and value the people sitting in front of you and although you can share a similar message, it is important to show that you are focused on that audience.
Will Richardson continuously teaches me to ask tough questions, and to push people to think deeply about their work.
I honestly could not tell you much about their content, because in reality, I feel the people that I have listed talk about many similar things. That being said, all of those lessons can apply to any position, whether you are a speaker, principal, or teacher, or a combination of any of those. There is a lot to be learned even when sometimes we act like we have seen this all before.