Nerves can get the best of us sometimes. Even seasoned educators can experience “stage fright” when teaching a class from time to time. Clients can also feel nervous when meeting a group of strangers for the first time, especially when the topic is as intimate and personal as birth.
It is normal to feel a little awkward at the start of class, but there are many things you can do to feel less nervous, improve your first impression with your clients and help your clients feel more comfortable.
Take Care of Yourself First
You’ve heard the line “put your oxygen mask on first, before assisting others.” When you’re teaching, you set the tone for the entire group, so you need to be calm and confident in order for clients to feel the same way. Here are some tips that can help:
Plan and Rehearse
When you have a clear plan for your class and you’re comfortable with the material, you’ll feel more confident teaching. Review your lesson plans and consider doing a trial run of the class with your family or friends filling in as students, then ask them for feedback.
Arrive early for class in order to have plenty of time to set up your materials, chairs, charts, etc. If time allows, review your lesson plans and notes while you wait for students to arrive. This will allow you to give your students your full attention and you can greet them feeling completely prepared.
In your class preparation time (and before students arrive), schedule a few minutes to do a quick relaxation, meditation or breathing exercise to help you be calm and focused right from the start. You can even give yourself a little pep talk like “This class will be fun and informative and my clients will have a better birth experience because of it.”
While teaching, if you’re feeling stressed or think the class has gone off course, guide the entire class through an impromptu relaxation or meditation exercise. You and your clients will benefit from the reset.
Fake it 'Til You Make it
Even if you feel nervous, unsure or unprepared, act like you don’t! Project confidence and composure on the outside and soon you’ll start to feel that way on the inside, too. Try not to rely on your notes or lesson plans too much and do your best to focus on interacting with your class. It is often better to let the topics and conversation flow organically than try to follow your lesson plans word for word.
If you encounter a topic or question you’re unfamiliar with, simply admit it and let clients know you’ll look into it further and get back to them. With experience, you’ll start to feel more confident and you’ll be able to teach without frequently referring to detailed lesson plans.
Avoid Awkward Silence
Give clients something to do while waiting for class to begin. This will prevent the uncomfortable silence that can fill the room otherwise. If you are able, greet each client individually and help them get settled. Provide a questionnaire to complete or use some other activity to keep clients occupied while they wait for classmates to arrive.
As soon as possible, start to build rapport and help everyone get to know one another. A group icebreaker or other interactive activity that gets your clients talking is a great way to start class.
Ask questions that encourage clients to talk about themselves. Comfortable topics may include sharing about family, occupation, recreational activities or dreams/goals for their birth or new baby. Ask open-ended questions that require more than a one word response. Instead of "When is your baby due?" ask them "What is something unique about your family?" Or ask a random, unexpected question like "If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?"
Some people find large groups intimidating, so it can be helpful to break up into smaller groups for ice breaker activities if the class is large.
Speaking in front of people can cause anxiety in everyone at times. These tips can help you overcome the occasional nerves and make an excellent first impression with each class.
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