Five eye-opening lessons learned while teaching.

Learning is hard. Teaching something is even harder.

I recently taught a course for aspiring assistant athletics trainers and learned five things that are worth writing about.

Here we go.

Preparation is key

Preparation is everything. You have to know what you're talking about while teaching if you want your students to learn from it.

The level to which you prepare is personal. I like to prepare my presentations using keywords. Those keywords guide me; they are the hooks that remind me what I want to say. The actual words differ a bit from one presentation to another, without losing the key points.

This level of preparation gives me the structure I need as well as the flexibility and spontaneity to keep it natural.

Reserve discussion time

If you're like me, you're always short on time. However well you tried to timebox your presentation, at the end there is ten minutes of content left when the timer hits the one minute mark.

Instead of cramming your presentation with information, think about the main topic. What is the key point you want your listeners to take home? As soon as you found that, cut away all the noise. This might leave you with 45 minutes worth of material for a 60 minute timeslot. That's OK. There will always be an unforeseen question or discussion that fills the empty space.

If you're nervous about ending fifteen minutes early, keep some of that extra information in your presentation. You can then decide to use it if you have time left, or skip it if you're short on time.

Interact with your audience

Humans have an attention span of somewhere between five to ten minutes. After that, the amount of people still listening is likely to drop real fast.

The solution?

Interact more with your audience. Split content into those five to ten minute chunks and fill the gaps by interacting with your audience.

For example, let your students think about a question for a few minutes, or let them discuss content in small groups. When teaching online, breakout rooms are a perfect way to organize these discussion sessions. It let's your students engage with the content as soon as possible.

Always ask yourself the question: "who should be the one learning, the student or the teacher"? Using new information is the only way to learn it properly and to transfer it to your long-term memory.

Ask for feedback

While your students should do the learning during a presentation, you can still get a learning moment for yourself out of it.


Ask for feedback at the end of the presentation.

Ask your students to write down what they learned. Ask them to tell you what topic they found the most interesting. Or the least. Ask them about your performance: did they like the way you presented?

Remember that you will only get honest feedback if there is a good relation between you and your audience. A good relationship with your students is the foundation for your content to stick. It takes a while for a relationship to form, so be patient and invest in it.


As a final remark, remember to have fun yourself.

Think about the surprising interactions you will have with your students. Think about the fact that you could be learning them something they can use for the rest of their lifes.

If you enjoy presenting, your enthusiasm will transfer to your audience and all of the above points will be much easier.