This week, I have the pleasure of being a keynote speaker at the new student orientation at SFU’s Surrey campus. I’m quite serious when I use the word ‘pleasure,’ too. I know that public speaking doesn’t exactly fall under the category of ‘pleasurable experiences’ for a lot of people, but thankfully, I’ve never had too much of a problem with it.
When I spoke to a few hundred students (it’s a small campus) on their first days of their new and exciting journey through academia, I went into it excited as opposed to nervous. I knew this group would be full of energy—they would laugh at my jokes, try to answer my weird and thought-provoking questions, ask questions of their own, and generally be an engaged audience. Music to my ears!
Sometimes, when I’m giving presentations or facilitating workshops, I think of myself as a stand-up comedian. Not because one of my goals is to entertain the audience (I know what you’re thinking: talking about careers can be entertaining?), but because the reactions of the audience are often the only measure of success. It’s hard not to feel bad after performing for a tough crowd, just as it’s hard not to feel great when you feel there was good chemistry with another crowd.
Perhaps the greatest challenge for any facilitator/presenter is a disengaged audience. Trust me when I say I’ve done my fair share of workshop facilitation with participants who didn’t really want to be there. That’s not a complaint, just an observation about the realities of my work. I’m sure most people prefer not to be in a situation where they need help making career decisions. A facilitator has to take that into account, and find a way to encourage the audience to buy in—to try to get as much out of the experience as possible.
With a group like the ones I’ll likely have at new student orientation this week, I’m highly doubtful that I’ll have to work to get buy-in from anyone. I’ll have full access to what I like to refer to as a “captive audience,” full of positive energy and enthusiasm, and ripe forindoctrination inspiration.
And that’s a pretty wonderful opportunity! It’s the kind of thing that makes public speaking fun, and when a presenter is having fun, it’s much more likely that the audience will too.
So, in the spirit of my keynote address, I’d like to share the central message of my presentation, which I’ll hopefully be expanding on in a certain soon-to-be-published magazine you may be familiar with.
Here’s the message: the best metaphor for your career development is an adventure, in which you are the protagonist, or the hero.
Sounds like fun, yes? Certainly more so than the antiquated and overused metaphors that are so often attached to the “career path.” You’ve heard them: climbing the ladder, scaling the mountain, slaying the dragon, arriving at the final destination, etc.
I’ve gone on at length in the past about the problems with this kind of thinking. What I’m hoping to do soon is write a bit more about alternatives that make sense.
I’d also like to share the link to the audiovisual materials I’m using in my presentation this week. Feel free to have a look at them, and share to your heart’s desire!