Don’t you hate it when you get home from teaching a class and you realize you forgot to mention your favorite tip, trick, or anecdote—the one that’s always a hit with your students? It happens to the best of instructors.

Stand-up comics face similar dilemmas. After they do their shows, they realize they forgot to try the new joke they’ve been working on, or they completely blew the wording on a bit and didn’t elicit the response they normally get from an audience.

Stand-up comics routinely do something that trainers simply don’t do often enough. Here’s the trick that can help you deliver your best training material every time you teach.
Here are some tips for improving the way you speak in class: In “Does your voice need training?” Bruce Maples recommends using a tape recorder to record your class so you can analyze the qualities of your voice such as pitch, pacing, enunciation, volume, and so on. In “Warm up your voice before class to improve the way you sound,” I recommend several exercises you can use to warm up your “instrument” before you start teaching.
Write (or type) every single word
Here’s the lesson you can learn from stand-up comics: Record your entire lecture, and then write down every word you say.

You can pay a secretarial service to transcribe your tape for you (but that service costs as much as $0.15 per line), or you can handwrite or type the document yourself. No matter how you do it, you need a written record of everything you said during the training class. (You don’t necessarily need to type what your students say.) Here’s what you get for your trouble:

  • You’ll identify bad habits. If you’re chronically using “uh” and “um” and “you know” in your speech, those wasted syllables will jump off the page at you. If you’re unknowingly using bad grammar on a regular basis, you’ll notice that, too. Hopefully, your awareness of these bad habits will help you eliminate them.
  • You’ll catch omissions. When you read over your transcript, you’ll probably notice several places in your lecture where you should have mentioned some important detail or where you would have preferred to use a different example or turn of a phrase. Go ahead and annotate this written record—write notes to yourself like, “Don’t forget to use this analogy here!” or “Turn off the overhead projector here.”
  • You’ll catch your strokes of genius. If you’ve extemporaneously come up with a brilliant way to explain a concept or illustrate a point, seeing it in black and white will help you remember it (and help you use that language again the next time you teach the same class).
  • You’ll have a script for future reference. In addition to helping you remember your best moments and fine-tune the language you use, your annotated transcript will serve as a useful guide the next time you teach the same (or a similar) class. You’ll never have to fret and worry about remembering how you organized the lessons—you’ve got a permanent reminder.

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Transcribe this!
If you’ve benefited from writing down your lectures from an audio tape, we want to hear from you. Please post your comments below or send us a note.