On Wednesday, I went back to where it all started. Literally.
I led a session with students from the University of Liverpool Business School MBA programme on communicating with impact, focusing on business writing. The students were also joined by some staff from across the university who wanted to get involved. The three-hour session – as a relatively newbie to teaching, I am quickly realising how tiring it is to be on your feet teaching for that long – took place a few hundred yards from where I was born, 38 years, 364 days previously.
It was a hugely enjoyable experience – as has been all of the teaching I have done over the last seven months as I have sought to build this into my portfolio of work. It is fantastically rewarding to have the time to be able to build an argument – in this case on the importance of seeing every single piece of writing from an email or letter to a business plan or annual report as an opportunity to tell a story. The belief that telling a story and entertaining your reader is the most effective way of getting and holding their attention long enough for them to read what you have written and then hopefully to persuade them to take the action you are suggesting.
It is even more rewarding to have stimulated a lively discussion about the way to communicate with impact – and having impact as a result. I was able, by talking through some principles and ideas and then relating them to some real life examples from my career, including before and after writing which had been written and then rewritten to help improve their impact, to demonstrate how with some simple changes we can all improve the way we write and make a big difference to the experience for the reader and the outcome for the writer.
After the session I received some great feedback – both face to face from many present and then by email afterwards from the organisers. Perhaps it is the novelty of just starting on my formal teaching journey – I hope it lasts forever – that I find this feedback deeply humbling and moving. It is the idea that someone has been touched by something I have said and that they will now think differently about how they write in the future. I would be lying if I said I didn’t make my way home a little taller (always a bonus for someone standing – on tiptoes – at just over five foot six!).
On my walk back to the car, I took a detour to see again where my life’s journey began – and that of John Lennon! I can take no credit – just my great fortune – to have been born in the great city of Liverpool, amongst the best of people. I can however take pride in my choices and decisions that mean that today I am still in that wonderful part of the world having travelled far and wide over the last 17 years.
It may be the parochial scouser in me – or as someone once cruelly but fairly said the “mawkish sentimentality” of my city, but I definitely enjoyed my teaching experience this week all the more for it taking place in the shadow of my birth; in the place that has shaped me.