5 tactics to make short classes work

http://www.flickr.com/photos/childofwar/3097124543/sizes/m/in/photostream/Have a short (1-4 hour) class/tutorial to give? Want your students to learn tons and rave about the class? Want them to teach you and stay engaged in the topic moving forward?

Here are a few tips I’ve picked up from running mini-classes in academic and professional settings:

  • Listen to the room
  • Build skills through lessons
  • Let them get their hands dirty
  • Do the boring stuff in advance
  • Follow up with homeworks

These are mostly related to programming-type topics (see here and here from some examples), but I’ll bet the ideas are broadly applicable. Hopefully you can share some of your experiences as either a student or teacher in the comments!

Continue reading “5 tactics to make short classes work”

Michael Pollan Interview

I listen to NPR’s Science Friday podcast every week. Last Friday, there was a great interview wit author Michael Pollan. In it he talks about his new book, “In Defense of Food, An Eater’s Manifesto.” Pollan says that he can really sum up the whole book in 7 words.

Eat Food. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants.

As a mostly-vegan who is appalled with the amount of junk that people eat, I couldn’t agree more! I also like his description of processed-packaged-supermarket-stuff as “edible food-like substances.” I think his message is 100% correct, and very important. Most of the stuff Americans eat is not food. By eating better stuff Americans could be a lot healthier and happier!

In Defense of Food

While I may sound fanatical about it, Pollan does a great job of getting these points across in a calm, informative way. He even talks about the history of food science and how we got in this predicament. Check The Science Friday Website for a link to the audio of the interview.

Listen to the Interview

Wisdom from Stephen Fleming

I attended a talk last night as part of the Georgia Tech Business Plan Competition Workshop Series (pdf). This was such a fantastic talk that I will have trouble putting it succinctly into this post.

Stephen Flemming
“Transforming Innovative Tech into Business”

As with any other person who has been a VC or angel investor, Steve was incredibly sharp, and seemed like he would be impervious to BS either on the giving or receiving end. Steve began his talk discussing the pros and cons of starting a business in the Southeast. He went on a diatribe about how ludicrous the spending in California is. Then he pointed out that although there isn’t much VC investment in Georgia and the surrounding states, there is a better tax situation, and much better access to real estate, talent, and customers.

Steve continued by discussing the cyclical relationship between institutional investors, VC’s, and entrepreneurs giving some insight into how that relationship drove VC’s behaviors. Some interesting take-aways were that VC’s want the entrepreneur to get rich, and that they’ll only have to be brutal and cruel if they have to in order to make the returns they promised their investors.

After giving some insight in these areas, he began enumerating the things that you must convince investors of when trying to raise capital for a business.

  1. You have a large, fast-growing market segment
  2. You have a technological advantage that will block competition
  3. You have reasonable financial terms
  4. You have measurable milestones for success

He went on fleshing these out for most of the remainder of the talk, but kept peppering in useful tips. I’d like to point out some here:

  1. Get a good referral (from another investor, an attorney, etc.) If you’re plan comes pre-qualified it. You’re in.
  2. Make a 20 page business plan with a 2 page executive summary. No More!
  3. Power-Point deck using the 10-20-30 rule (10 slides, 20 minutes, 30 point type)
  4. In all of these documents, sell the company, not the product.
  5. Do your homework on the investors you’re presenting to and tailor the presentation. It will help you and impress them.
  6. Choose your investor wisely. Don’t just follow money; find someone that can help you with experience, expertise, contacts, etc.

Check out Steve Fleming’s website as well. Here you can find his blog as well as some useful information about starting companies.

Furthermore, here is a list of other resources and websites that Steve
suggested:

Steve Pavlina

Recently, I’ve been reading motivational articles by Steve Pavlina. This guy is pretty remarkable (he finished two undergrad degrees in just three semesters!). Now he spouts wisdom about getting what you want out of life. I epically like some of his concepts outlined in these articles:

Overwhelming Force
Cultivating Burning Desire
The Power of Clarity

He makes some very good points about how setting goals and then making very strong and directed actions to accomplish those goals. From reading his stuff I’m getting a big surge of can-do attitude and am eager to try to tackle some goals I’ve been putting off for a while!