June 7, 2012

Create A Lesson In Minutes

by Promod Sharma, President 2011-2012, CC

A speech takes hours to prepare and practice. A 15-20 minute lesson takes minutes to prepare. Here’s how:
  1. Pick a topic you know well
  2. Create a mind map
  3. Include audience interaction
There’s no need to practice, but practice helps.

The Right Topic

Preparation takes time unless you pick a topic you already know well. Choose a hobby for instance. You'll cut your stress level and exude passion.

At our core, we're much alike. Pick a topic of interest and value to a general audience (even if you're talking to a specialized group).

Today, I'm giving a lesson on Mastering Time via three proven, simple techniques. It's based on a blog post I wrote a few months ago,

Mind Map

A mind map is a simple, visual way to organize, re-arrange and deliver your lesson (for a primer, read preplan your speech with a mind map). For a lesson, I use three branches
  1. hook: draw the audience in quickly the way an action movie does
  2. content: give the substance with the boring bits removed
  3. action: leave the audience with a simple next step
Mastering Time mind mapHere's a screen shot (click to enlarge). This mind map took 21 minutes to develop. I might make minor refinements.

You can use a printed mind map for your delivery  but you’ll get more flexibility on a tablet.


If you're just going to talk, spare your audience by putting a recording on YouTube. You'll be more polished and able to reach a larger audience.

If you're going to consume an audience's irreplaceable time and attention, invite them to participate. What do they think? What are their experiences? Do they have better ideas?

Interaction helps your audience build their skills too. That's an important part of Toastmasters.

Time Crunch

What happens if you have less time to give your lesson than expected? You can be irate and demand your full allotment. Or you can hone your skills by adjusting. 

Last week I had a lesson on Mastering The Mastermind (based on this post). I thought I'd have 20 minutes but only 10 minutes were scheduled. Other segments took longer than planned. To help the meeting end on time, I was asked to finish in eight minutes. I agreed to the challenge.

Here's how: I left the hook and action intact (and had them reasonably memorized). In the middle segment, I cut out portions and removed the audience participation. The result was essentially a speech. I finished in six minutes and 55 seconds. I don't think the audience noticed or suffered.

Without a mind map, I would have scrambled to prune. With the mind map, I made adjustments as I spoke.

Your Lesson

My lesson for tonight has taken 21 minutes to prepare (though I've been thinking about it for two days). I'll refine and practice a bit. The total time will be less than an hour.

If you're new to giving lessons, you needn't race the clock. You needn't fear that a lesson is tough to create either.


Promod Sharma conducts independent Actuarial Insurance Reviews in the Greater Toronto Area.

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