Congratulations! You’ve been asked to teach a class. It’s a golden opportunity to burnish your career or to break ground in a new area that could lead to a longed-for career change. You’re dying to do it. Just one problem: You suffer from a paralyzing case of shyness that probably has roots in your disastrous third grade play.
Standing in front of a crowded classroom or lecture hall frightens a lot of us—but it shouldn’t stop you from sharing your knowledge and passion. Chances are, all you need is the advice of a pro. Deanna Criess, executive coach at ImprovBoston, explains how to face an audience.
1. Say yes. “Improvisation is all about saying ‘yes’ to every offer. If someone thinks you’re so great at something that they want you to teach it, say yes!” she urges. “For many introverts, the scariest part of starting something new is agreeing to it. But if they’re asking you, they know you can do it,” so have faith that you’ll do well.
2. Trust yourself. “In improvisation, we need to trust our instincts,” Criess says. “There is no time to second guess. In order to be an effective teacher, we need to trust that we’re the expert in the room. Introverts often rethink and rethink, which can undermine confidence. Ignore the doubt. You got this!”
3. Play to your passion. “A scene that I’m passionate about will always be more interesting than one that I’m half-hearted about,” Criess says. “If you’re going to dedicate time and energy to teaching something, make it something you not only know but that you love. Your passion combined with your expertise is what will make you a great teacher,” she says. For an introvert, your passion can also help pull you from your shell and override any shyness.
See also: Are You A Teacher at Heart?
4. Follow the fun. “As improvisers, we’re always aware of our audience. We want them to be having as much fun as we are. So if you’re going to teach it, make it fun. Set up a classroom environment that allows for playfulness within the curriculum, structure a class that allows you to be in the moment, and focus on what the students are enjoying, rather than lecturing at them,” she advises.
5. Make others look good. “My job as an improviser is to make my scene partners look great and to set them up for success. The joy of improvisation is that it’s a team sport. That’s why so many introverts love improvisation: They can share the stage!” she says. So do the same in your classroom. “Get folks up on their feet or get them talking to one another. Find ways to make the class interactive. It takes the focus off of you and puts in on the students, creating a team approach that can be more comfortable for an introvert,” she suggests. Take the heat off yourself—nobody will be the wiser.
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