6 Big Ways Teaching for Free Pays Off

Today’s guest blogger is Will Bachman, a management consultant with interests ranging from Business Process Redesign to running a hobby farm.

Working from an alcove off his bedroom, Salman Khan has created over 2,400 free educational videos that are viewed by over 1,000,000 students a month at  www.khanacademy.org.

You get more back when you teach for free

What benefits can you get teaching for free? For Salman Khan, a MacArthur Fellowship was one of them.

For this, he has been awarded a MacArthur Fellowship and Khan Academy took top prize in Google’s $10 million contest to identify which ideas would help the world the most.

Inspired by his example, this spring I created and delivered my own free training.  I’ll describe that briefly, and then discuss the benefits and offer suggestions on how you can get started.

How teaching new hires at McKinsey got me started
During the five years that I worked at McKinsey, a global management consulting firm, I enjoyed teaching the one-week course on consulting skills to new hires. From that experience, I created a free, interactive, one-day Consulting Bootcamp [ http://www.innovationbootcamp.net/p/consulting-bootcamp.html ] targeted at post-MBA business professionals who had never worked in a consulting firm but were interested in getting an introduction to the consulting toolkit. It was easy to fill all the seats in the session by emailing an announcement to fellow alumni and posting it on my blog and LinkedIn.
It was a tremendous amount of fun preparing and delivering the training. I made some new friends, reconnected with old ones, and, I hope, helped a dozen people by teaching skills that will help them in their career.

The benefits of giving free training

  1. Revisit the basics. Teaching a topic helps you achieve true mastery. As you consider how to transfer your own knowledge or skills, you are forced to reflect on how you do what you do.
  2. Enjoy giving a gift. Pay it forward. If the attendees ask what they can do for you in return, you can say, “Teach something you know to someone else.” Start a cascade.
  3. Build connections. Allow serendipity to happen. I think it is best to release your expectations and not expect any particular result while being open to good things happening. In addition to expanding your own network, you’ll also be creating an environment where the attendees can build connections among each other.
  4. Improve your presentation skills. Teaching what you know in front of a non-paying group is relatively low-risk. If you are already used to speaking in front of an audience, push yourself to get outside your comfort zone to stretch your skills.
  5. Strengthen your own brand. All else being equal, would you rather hire a real estate agent who regularly gives training on how to buy a house, a plant manager who lectures on lean manufacturing, a web designer who has spoken to groups at three business schools, or ones who haven’t? It takes very little, other than initiative, to join that first group.
  6. Practice doing something without permission. Give training without the imprimatur of a school or the HR department.

How you can get started:

  • Pick a topic. You are an expert on dozens of topics that would be a good basis for a training session. Some ideas to start your thinking:
    • Technology (Getting the most out of your iPhone; Using PivotTables in Excel; The new PeopleSoft installation at your office; Web design; etc.)
    • Hobbies (How to use all those features on your digital SLR; Knitting 101)
    • Job search (Crafting a killer cover letter; Getting the most out of informational interviews; Negotiating your offer)
    • Practical stuff they don’t teach in school (How to buy your first house; How to get your kids into a good public school in New York City; How to buy life insurance; How to negotiate with your elderly parent’s health insurance company)
  • Pick an audience. You could offer the free training to fellow alumni of your college or graduate school, members of your community or religious organization, all of your contacts on LinkedIn. Offering training to other employees at your job is a great way to meet folks from other departments.
  • Decide on the right length. Consider what potential attendees will be willing to commit to. Better to keep it shorter and leave them wanting more.
  • Announce the training and get commitments. Pick a date and send out your announcement. Give people a deadline to respond and ask them to make a firm commitment to attend. You might even require a short application. Let people know that space is limited.
  • Prepare your materials. Notice that this step comes after announcing the date of the training. Unless you were the one person in class who got term papers done the second week of the semester, I encourage you to schedule the training without waiting to develop all your materials. I had the idea of Consulting Bootcamp for over a year, but I only managed to do all the preparation when I had a firm deadline.
  • Arrange for space. I announced Consulting Bootcamp without having lined up a conference room in Manhattan that could fit a dozen people. One of the attendees was able to let us use a conference room at his office for free.
  • Create take-home materials. Including all of your training materials in a binder for each attendee makes it feel like a “real” training session. Not required, so don’t let this step stand in the way of doing the training.
  • Get feedback. Give attendees the chance to give you anonymous feedback at the end of the session. With Consulting Bootcamp, I learned that attendees liked the role-playing training for interviews, but I needed to do more work on the session in which we outlined a presentation. I’ve posted a feedback form you can edit to use at your own presentation, below the deck for Consulting Bootcamp.

Mojo Moves

  • Check out the KhanAcademy Intro video by Bill Gates and move down the elevator bar to watch a few of the 2400 instructional videos.
  • Right now, write down 10 topics that you could teach. Share your list with your AW and some friends for feedback.
  • Select your favorite topic, and using the Consulting Bootcamp as a starting point, begin putting a training seminar together.

I’d love to hear about your experience creating your own bootcamp, and I’d be happy to provide advice if you have a specific question.  Either leave a comment below or email me at bootcamp at bachmangroup.net.

MuCash lets you make donations quicky in increments as small as a single penny. By leaving a small donation every time you find something of value on Mojo40, you can help me (Diane) keep creating content like this for you to enjoy.
Did you enjoy this post?
  • http://www.hanlancommunications.com Wendy Hanlan

    There is a buzz word out there…Opt-In Offer. Sounds a bit sales-y, but it’s exactly what this article is about. Teaching for free in order to build and email list, achieve authortity, etc etc. Sales-y or not, everybody wins! It’s an essential tool in your online marketing kit. Great article Will!

  • Hari

    Great article Will, you’ve got me thinking now!

What is this site about?

It’s about getting you up to speed with today’s digital networking tools, and sharing a roadmap to elevate your career that doesn’t assume you grew up with wi-fi in your bassinet. Ready to get your career mojo back?

Featured in Alltop


  • Age Concerns (10)
  • Attitude Adjustment (32)
  • Balancing Work and Life (10)
  • Best Videos (8)
  • Blogging Tips (8)
  • Creative Engine (10)
  • Facebook FAQ (3)
  • Funding (1)
  • Gigging (7)
  • How to Become an Entrepreneur (26)
  • How to Increase Sales (13)
  • How to Interview Well (13)
  • How to Network (22)
  • Job Search Strategies (13)
  • Learn Something New (33)
  • LinkedIn Tips (14)
  • Small Business Web Marketing (14)
  • Social Media Tips (13)
  • Tech Tips (21)
  • Time Management Strategies (17)
  • Twitter Tips (7)

Socialize with us at

  • Find us on LinkedIn
  • Find us on Twitter

Find Us On Facebook


Mojo40 Twitter Updates