Preparing to deliver my first paid commission


Ponderings and preparations for four social media workshops I will be delivering. 

I’ve built up a sizeable book collection over the years. I can’t pretend that I’ll get to read through all of them in detail. Too many of them are bought then seldom touched. Part of me wants to be able to download all of the information onto a memory card and insert it into my brain and bingo! But life doesn’t work like that. I procrastinate too much and am easily distracted – traits that I hope will diminish with age. (I’m not counting on it though). Like many, I have a habit of leaving things until just before they are required.

Sharing knowledge – teaching

Tomorrow marks my first paid commission as a teacher/trainer/tutor/facilitator (call it what you will – just don’t use the word “consultant”). It’s for my local council – training up  around fifty members of staff on the basics of social media – in particular Twitter and Facebook. I’m delivering the training (with Puffles) in a series of small workshops spread over a day and a half. What’s significant about this for me is that after three decades of learning stuff, this marks the start of where I start teaching people in a formal setting with a formalised relationship between myself and client organisation.

I’ve delivered a variety of different training workshops both within and for the departments that I’ve worked for, but those have generally been within the course of existing duties. Ditto with presentations and public speeches. This is the first time anyone has approached and commissioned me effectively saying “We would like you to deliver X in return for Y”. Hence why I’m sort of feeling the pressure.

Not that I should be worried or anything. I spent the autumn doing teacher training for post-16 students, and some key concepts from that training formed part of my pitch. (The big one being acknowledgement of and accounting for people’s different learning styles.) Secondly, I’m going to be educating people about something that has been part of my life to an extent that I now take it for granted – social media. That’s not to say I know everything there is to know about social media: I don’t. (I do know more than enough to deliver this commission though!) Such is the wealth of information out there that to comprehend all of it is beyond the comprehension of the human mind. (That’s my take anyway).

Comparing my experiences of being taught with what I have planned

On some days it still seems like yesterday that I was at school. Yet during the mid-1990s we did not have access to the wealth of resources and information that we now take for granted. I still wonder what the impact on my grades (and general life path) would have been had I had access to the sorts of digital video and online resources then that are available now. Would they have helped compensate for mediocre teaching elsewhere? Yes, little chip on my shoulder, but one that’s got a lot smaller in recent years. Some battles are no longer worth fighting. The adversaries are no longer there, and someone’s gone and built luxury flats on the battlefield.

One of the things that excites me about this commission is being able to use a range of different learning/teaching techniques. Ditto the idea of having a continued professional relationship with the client organisation and its staff. The difference here for me is social media.

During my civil service days, I did lots of one-day and two-day training courses. Some were interesting, others fun, a few a complete waste of taxpayers’ money. One thing that was consistent in all of those courses was the ‘discrete’ nature of them. i.e. The consultant came in to deliver his course and off he went. No further opportunity for dialogue – even though they left email contact details. The culture of communications was very formalised to the extent that I can’t recall a single occasion where there was an ongoing “conversation” that occurred between trainer and delegates.

The same was true when it was me delivering seminars, speeches, presentations and workshops. My contact details were nearly always put on the slides – even though one or two managers frowned upon this practice as one that made extra unnecessary work. Social media increases the opportunity of having these post-workshop conversations. For this commission, I’ve gone one further and have written a commentary piece with the slides and feedback survey on what will become my professional website. I’m keeping it under wraps for now – awaiting the delivery of a bespoke WP theme from Karen Arnott – a local graphic designer. Again, during my civil service days, I can’t think of anyone who provided commentaries, electronic copies of their resources and links to further reading and resources following the delivery of a workshop.

Time pressure

Coming back to the procrastination issue, I was dragging my feet on the issue of upgrading/improving this blog as well as creating a more professional website. That was until I was asked to provide a quotation for social media training a few weeks ago. What was previously one man and his dragon fairy suddenly had to become much more professional – and focussed. As a result, the vision of what I wanted my ‘electronic front door’ to look like finally began to take shape. The focus in part came from gaining an idea of what ‘the market’ looked like – i.e. a prospective client telling me what they needed. At the same time, it also became clear what wider skills and knowledge I felt I was lacking.

Plugging those gaps

The bare minimum for a workshop of this sort is a few set of slides plus a couple of demonstrations on the websites concerned – all projected onto a big screen. That struck me as being a little boring and excessively safe. As well as the post-workshop commentary and resources, I’m also experimenting with a smartphone demonstration projected onto a big screen via a webcam. It’s also meant learning the hard way the limitations of my existing hardware as well as using one or two contraptions not in the manner their manufacturers intended. Smartphone holders for cars work just as well on tables – providing a stable platform for which the touchscreen can be pressed. Fingers crossed it will work on the day.

As with Karen developing the theme, I also went local with web-hosting – with Vera Analytics for those of you wondering. For me, this is what I see as the ‘formal essential’ work that I need to get right. Getting both the theme wrong and making a mess with a remote web-host could have negative knock-on effects later on down the line. While I spent part of the autumn playing with a number of Creative Suite products, I was never able to achieve the vision for my online presence that I had set myself. My preferred method of working for essential stuff is to have such people close by. In both cases they are local. Also, all are followers of Puffles – which is how I found them. Just as the workshops tomorrow started out life with Puffles receiving a Twitter message, the same happened here (only Puffles being the sender.) Examples of using social media to source and secure business locally? There’s a lesson in there somewhere.


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