Yep, I was a guest speaker last week, and I still can't really believe I agreed to it.. I'm not talking a small group of 5-10 people either, there were around 60 people in the room, yikes right? Oh, and the projector and PowerPoint that I was supposed to use? Yeah, they didn't work until the last 10 minutes.. Needless to say it was an interesting first experience! Even though I was the "teacher", I learned a lot!
Let's back this up a bit, why was I guest speaker? Who was the audience? What did I cover? All valid questions with quick answers.. except the first question. I'm still trying to figure that out myself ;) - The audience was made up of college students within my major. I covered my college experience, ranging from internships to classes and organizations. So why was I a guest speaker? My former professor asked if I would come and talk about my experience to younger students. Many of them have questions about jobs, classes, internships, volunteering, networking, organizations, and the travel that I had done as a student. Since I am a very recent graduate of the program, she thought they'd gain a lot from my experience and hearing a recent students point of view. My first response to my professor was, "I'm not that interesting, they'll be getting out of class early..", but she insisted that my experiences would be great for the students to hear.
Alright, so what did I learn?
1. Public speaking is not the worst thing you're going to have to do in your life. It isn't! So stop thinking it is!
- I admit, I got very nervous and probably prepared way more than was necessary, but once I got there and started talking it wasn't bad! I'd never spoke in a situation like this. A meetings? Yes, but never in a class room or as a guest speaker. I just decided to jump in. That's my suggestion, just jump in and do it! Chances are you are going to have to talk in front of people more times in your life than most people would like to, so practice when you can!
2. Knowing your material is key. Expert status isn't mandatory, but I can only imagine how easy it is for those people to talk on their subjects!
- How many people have had to present something and decided to "wing it"?
Read over it once?
Fill in information on the fly?
Yeah, I'm going to say nearly everyone! Don't lie! I'm one of the lucky ones, I guess you'd say, because all of my major specific classes were about sports or event planning, two areas I'm very interested in. When we had to do presentations, if I didn't prepare, I could pull out examples from things I'd seen during my internships, or what ESPN had been reporting on lately. For some of my non-major specific classes, that wasn't the case. I remember doing a presentation in chemistry lab that I did not prepare enough for. Luckily the TA was very nice and asked basic questions. Our group struggled along and got an okay grade.
The point is, when I was talking about my college career and experience it was all things that I know like the back of my hand. I could talk confidently about it. When you can do that the presentation is more believable and it's way easier to talk about in front of people!
3. You aren't going to reach everyone. That kid with snacks and headphones that showed up ten minutes late, in no rush? Yeah don't even try.
- Some people don't care, and that's okay! As I looked through the classroom I saw a lot of things, note takers, nodding, and faces of engagement (which was great!), but I also saw the people on their phones, blank stares, and some resting B faces where you don't know if they are intrigued or annoyed. - I can have a pretty serious RBF and not even mean to, so I try not to judge ;P - After the class some came up and talked to me and others bolted as soon as they could. Unless you're talking to an audience that bought tickets to see you, most likely not everyone is going to be there because they 100% want to be. Ignore those faces or actions and focus on the people who are engaged.
4. Plan for technology to fail. Not just a minor fail, like full on fail, nothing you planned on is working. Better to be pleasantly surprised than disappointed.
- I had a PowerPoint created with main points bulleted and a few pictures to references, but guess what? I couldn't use it.
Fine, I could just pull it up on the desktop and at least I could use it for reference right? Wrong.
They tried to fix the projector during the class, which of course meant that they needed the desktop and all the cords plugged in to it. Yep, I stood in front of a class with no screen, PowerPoint, or notes really. Thank goodness I had gone over my presentation a couple times prior to the class so I had an idea of the flow without any notes or slides to help. I always say, "Technology is great....when it works".
5. Put forth some effort and energy. Sounds cliche, but I have my reasons!
- Do you like listening to monotone speakers? Probably not, so why would you want to be one? It's also more fun to listen to someone who is smiling, moving around, and showing some personality right? I sure think so!
I was uncomfortable at the beginning and with the tech issues I fumbled around for a minute, but then realized that I had to cover the information one way or another so mine as well dive right in! Being familiar with the information helped with this, obviously, but I tried to move around a little and not make everything roses and champagne. I included some funny horror stories and made some jokes about myself. Put yourself out there and put some energy into it!
Five years ago I would have found every excuse NOT to speak in front of people. Three years ago I would have said maybe with a group. One year ago I would have been shaking and beat red, probably making it as short as possible. Now, well I still shake a little and I definitely have "flight" thoughts before I have "fight" thoughts, but I'll do it! After I spoke last week I was actually thankful that I did it. Even though there were not that many people that had questions or talked to me after class I still felt good knowing that I had helped that small percentage that asked questions and had taken notes. Some have even emailed me since I spoke with questions or asking for advice.
I'd love to hear what y'all have learned from public speaker! Or if you still have those "flight" thoughts when the opportunity presents itself!