Practice what you teach.

I have a confession to make. Well, first I will back up and give you a bit of context, and then I will confess...

Yesterday I launched Tell Me A Story's very first online storytelling class. I created a version of our "story pitch" workshop, Tell Your Story: Crafting an Authentic Elevator Pitch That Works, for Skillshare. This class includes 12 minutes of video instruction, and a project to upload. I will be leading group discussions within the class and giving personalized feedback on each and every project.

This was my first foray into creating content of this nature. I knew I needed bite-sized videos and clear instructions that I could give on camera. I outlined each video and I wrote a detailed script. I loved the script so much, I convinced myself that while filming, I needed to use the exact words that I put on paper.

Here's where the confession comes in: On the day I was set to film my videos with Bob Sweeney of RLS Video, I found a website where I could copy and paste text and turn it into a teleprompter. Filming was going to be so easy! I used a conference room at me new co-working space that had a flat screen TV on the wall. I beamed the tele-prompter site to the flat screen. I was sooooo technologically savvy! And then Bob and I filmed all of the videos. I read my lines from the cues and wham bam, we were finished. I felt terrific. 

A few days later, Bob sent me the first edit of a video. I watched myself and cringed. My eyes were darting all around. Up, down, side to side, every which way except looking directly into the camera. I had a nervous tick. A rare eye disease. Stage fright. And, although it was distracting, I didn't want to reshoot the videos. Oh I had the time to reshoot, but I didn't want to.  Sheer laziness.

I posted my class Introduction video to a discussion group on Skillshare. The feedback started to roll in. I get wonderful comments like "I love the content of your class, and the editing of the video is so professional." But mixed in with this positive reinforcement was the brutal truth. I got comments like "I was really distracted by your eye movements in the video. Try talking directly into the camera." I did try talking directly into the camera. I was just reading something at the same time. 

I emailed Bob and we scheduled a video reshoot. A few days later, tele-prompter free (and with a much better backdrop),  I reshot all of the videos. This time I spoke directly into the camera and I did not use my script. Bob would feed me lines and I'd immediately forget what I was talking about. So I just started to talk through my ideas out loud until it felt comfortable in my own words and my own speaking style. From there I looked into the camera and shared the same ideas. Sometimes it would come out identical to what I had scripted in the first place. Other times, new phrases and ideas came to me in the moment. 

This is exactly the type of communication strategy I teach through Tell Me A Story and IN THIS SKILLSHARE CLASS. How did I ever think I'd get away with reading a pre-written script when I teach people to avoid this type of preparation and memorization?!?

During the first video shoot, I read my personal stories from the teleprompter. I even read the line "Hi I'm Hillary Rea, the founder of Tell Me A Story." And I was shocked when I watched myself back on video and discovered that I was a disengaged robot teacher. Well duh, I didn't communicate as a storyteller the first time around. 

The lesson is learned. I will practice what I teach. Not because I have to, because I want to. This is a method of communication that I am passionate about, that I want others to practice. I also think it makes things easier for the audience. Whether you are performing in front of a large audience, or need to weave your story into a pitch, do all the prep but then let that prep go in the moment. That's how the authentically you version of you steps up to the plate. 

I'd love for you to sign up for my new Skillshare class. I will lead group discussions within the workshop and provide every student with personalized feedback on their class project. The class is self-paced and I won't grade you. (Unless you'd like a grade.)

If you are a woman in tech and you're in the Philadelphia area on November 5th, I'm teaching a live version of this workshop at the Ela Conference. More information is here.  

Ps. Here is the Introduction Video for the class:

An Online Skillshare Class by Hillary Rea