Would you rather listen? Check out Episode 3 at www.traceyteaches.biz/podcast
I have been binging on the Raise Your Hand Say Yes podcast with Tiffany Han lately. It’s been fun to catch up. I followed her when she first started and then sort of forgot. But I was listening to an old episode while driving today that sparked the subject in my mind that I want to talk to you about today. The episode was about not leaving enough white space in your life.
If you’re listening to this in current time and not going back after the fact and listening to early episodes, you know that we are in an unbelievably strange time in our culture. Here in the United States, as well as in multiple other countries, we are experiencing the surreal reality of quarantine due to the existence of the Novel Coronavirus and the subsequent COVID19 disease that is caused by it. Because of this disease, schools are closed, most businesses are closed, including restaurants and bars, and it is a time of a lot of uncertainty and a time of panic for many people. As for me, you may not know that I work part-time in healthcare. Working in healthcare has always been a passion of mine. It’s actually what led me to a career in education, but that’s a long story. And as a self-employed person, I am sure you recognize the value of inexpensive health insurance, and that is what my part-time job working in healthcare does provide for my family. But working on the front lines of the COVID19 thing is weird. It’s more than a little scary, and it’s mentally as well as physically exhausting.
If you would’ve asked me even so much as a month or two ago what I would do with a week of unscheduled time, I would have told you that I would be freaking ecstatic! I would do some online training that I have been putting off, to listen to some podcasts, read a book, spend time with my family and my dogs, or do some work around my house. I have been dying to knock out some major home-improvement projects. But what’s happened in the last week with the recommendation for social distancing, with the financial constraints of low need at work and recommendations that we all stay in our homes, is that I am having a really tough time focusing. One of the reasons that’s happening for me at least, and I’m guessing possibly for you as well, is because we’re so used to cramming all of the things into our daily lives. I have a daughter who is a junior in high school. She has show choir, she has theater, and she works.
My older child still lives with me, and he works, so I have both of their schedules rattling around in my mind. I have my business and my part-time job and my own social life. I am single and not dating right now, but if I was, there would be that too. We have these crazy schedules and manage to cram so many colors, so many activities, into our lives. We stress about juggling those things, and sometimes we think about what it might be like if we didn’t have all of those things to juggle; if we just had some time to ourselves. Well, all of a sudden, we have time. Like a whole bunch of the time! I left the clinic today, it’s Wednesday, and I’m not due back there until Monday. I have literally nothing scheduled between now and then. All I have is just the vast expanse of white space before me and well, like I said a couple of months ago, this would be something that I would have really welcomed, but when it’s sort of thrust upon you, it’s a little overwhelming. What do I do with all this time? Now I do have some big goals for things that I do plan to accomplish, especially over this weekend. We should have been heading off to a show choir competition this weekend, but because of the COVID-19 quarantines, we are not traveling to South Dakota from Minnesota for that competition. Instead, I will be at home so I can get a bunch of things done, and I am excited about that part of it. Now you know obviously I understand the gravity of the situation, but I am looking for the silver lining and welcoming a little bit of this white space.
How does this relate to course creation, you ask? One of the mistakes that course creators make in their courses is not leaving enough white space. Let’s talk specifically about slide creating if you are doing a voice-over PowerPoint lesson or if you’re creating a handout or workbook to go along with your training. Now, if the background of your slide deck is blue or purple, I don’t mean literal “white space,” think figuratively here. The idea is just that there is no need to cover every square centimeter of your slide deck with pictures or words, and by doing so, you can make it very difficult for your learner to focus on what’s important. You want to make sure you are only putting on your slide the things that are actually important to reinforce. We talked a little bit already about not reading your slides to your learner we don’t want to put every word that you’re going to say on a slide so that you’re sitting there reading to them we also don’t want put too many lines of text on a slide even if you’re not reading to them. If you are expecting them to learn what’s on your slide and it’s a hefty lot of text, you need to understand that they can’t listen to you and read those words at the same time. A quick little quote or a little reinforcing nugget on the slide that reinforces what the words that are coming out of your mouth mean, can be helpful. But don’t overload your slides with a lot of text and then expect them to hear and engage with what you’re saying.
In art, the white in a painting can be used intentionally to draw attention to where it needs to be. This can be done in your course creation process too. Let the essential concepts stand-alone with lots of space around them, so they aren’t buried in your content.
This certainly is true in your workbooks and other reinforcement tools that you create for your course. A page packed with words is overwhelming, while a simple list of bullet points or short, concise questions or prompts is more inviting and feels more achievable.
The same goes honestly for how much you speak in your video lessons. You want to make sure that you are using some repetition and repeating core concepts and then pausing for emphasis. This takes some practice, and you might want to practice in front of a mirror or record yourself to get the timing right. Pausing feels weird, and all of us who are socially awkward know about wanting to fill painful silences, but in sales, the meaningful pause can be very impactful. Education is selling if you think about it, you are trying to get someone to jump on board with your concept. Significant stops or deliberate pauses expertly delivered are excellent in lectures of all kinds, especially with teenagers. Think about how uncomfortable those breaks can make them feel! Think of the squirming while they wait to hear what is next. Deliberate pauses. Master them. Love them.
In conclusion, there is a real benefit to making sure you have enough white space, whether that is in your slide deck, in your course resources, or in your life. We love all of the colors of the rainbow, but some white gives us a place to focus our attention, and ultimately find clarity and peace. I wish all of you peace and health in this incredibly trying time. And, I challenge you to use your white space-time to get busy creating that course your audience is craving. Your audience is waiting for the thing that only you can teach them. I will be working on my program Create the Course Your Audience Craves, and I would love to chat with you about it or whatever your course project is in the Becoming a Course Creator FB group. Look us up on FB or go to www.traceyteaches.biz/bestgroupever and join the community of fantastic course creators who are waiting with me to support you on your mission.
That’s all for now.