Those of you that read my blog and maybe know me in person/on Twitter know that I love teaching. I think it mostly stems from not getting enough attention as a kid. 😉 [Just kidding Ma.]
This past year I had the honor of presenting to both of my kids’ schools about my work and what I “do for a living”. While the school year has been over for several weeks and it has been months since I spoke in the schools, today, in my mail were 15 “thank you” notes from the middle school students I spoke to during one of these Career Days. They brightened my day! Wasn’t just the fact that they wrote them by hand but also what they wrote in them.
Talking the Talk
When presenting to an audience, be they 6th graders or CEOs, you, as the presenter have the challenge of conveying your information in a format that your audience will connect with and absorb. Tailoring content to your audience is vital if you want to be a successful presenter/teacher and, thinking back to my school-boy days and SO many presentations I attended as an adult, I remember those people that truly missed the mark on this and the time I wasted attended their lectures.
Is that Feedback?
As a presenter, it is sometimes hard to know if you are connecting with your victims audiences. Sure, you watch their body language to gauge the overall mood of the crowd but this can be misleading. Those of you that have given talks right after lunch know what I’m talking about. Trying to get people to listen, hear and understand something while their body is digesting that sugar-laden food they just ate is anything but easy. But we try.
And we try, and we try and we try. Getting feedback is something that I value highly. If I talked too fast or slow, walked around too much or gave too many examples, I want to know. Feedback is how we get better. Well, listening to and taking to heart the feedback given. Sometimes the words may be not be pleasant to hear but the meaning may be accurate. I remember once, when I taught parenting classes, I gave a narrow example to a very diverse group of adults. I said something like,
“Our jobs as parents are not to be our kid’s friends. Sure that is a bonus but our true jobs are to ensure that they have the knowledge, skills and abilities to be successful in the real world when they leave our houses and go to college.”
I meant well and my message was that we need to help our kids grow. A parent came up to me after class and said,
“You mentioned college. Heck you mentioned ‘leaving the house’. You don’t have any idea about what I’m going through and MY situation. I’m lucky if my kids finish 10th grade much less graduate high school. As for ‘leaving the house’…a pipe dream.”
And she was right. I, as the presenter, through what I said, shifted her focus from what I was truly trying to get across to something that was distracting and “lost” her for the rest of the session. [FYI: I had a long talk with her after class and got more about her perspective, listened to her concerns and changed how I presented that material in the future.]
If our jobs are to get our points across to our audiences, then their jobs are to tell us when we have succeeded or failed.
Many times people present and don’t ever know if they have made a difference or gotten their points across. Those parenting classes that I alluded to above were great as they were 5-10 classes where we could talk to the parents and find out what was and was not working for them. Getting and processing the feedback.
And so I come to today’s feedback. Each student at this middle school I spoke at had to write a note to a presenter that made an impact on them. Getting this info from these children warmed my heart. I want to share with you some of the most significant passages they wrote.
“I know we are just kids today, but some day we’ll do great things with our lives.”
“I learned you have to keep trying and never give up.”
“The password lecture really got me thinking. Thinking that how easily someone can hack my computer right from under my nose. Thank you for teaching me how to stay safe online.”
“All the info about having bad passwords will help and I am going to change my password right away.”
“I also liked learning ‘What if?’ questions, and planning and experimenting and trying, failing, and trying again.”
As a presenter, teacher and parent I’d like to say THANK YOU to those of you out there that give presenters, teachers and yes, even parents feedback and letting us know that we are getting our points across. And for those quiet ones of you that sit in lectures and classes and presentations and process the information we talk about but offer no feedback…thank you too. 🙂