All semester, my students have been working on projects that have given them the opportunity to practice their newly honed entrepreneurial skills. In our last class, they had a chance to share their projects and showcase their public speaking abilities that we learned about in our public speaking class. The goal was to deliver an interesting, engaging speech that conveyed something personal and meaningful about the project in 5 minutes or less.
Here are my observations on what made for a good presentation.
Share your passion
It was wonderful to hear the passion that infused these projects! As one of my students observed, if you feel passionate about your project, it’s easy to speak about it.
One student talked about his Kickstarter project to commission new work for the trombone and the wonder that this was doable!
Another student enthusiastically described his multi-media collaboration with other instrumentalists, a composer and a group of actors and his excitement about taking the project on the road.
Yet a third student spoke about his passions for music, food and wine to create a prototype of a pre-concert event whereby patrons pair up a piece of music with a type of wine. You could tell how much fun he was having just by telling the class about the upcoming event!
Use your creativity
While interesting content goes a long way in engaging an audience, it helps to add a creative element.
Two students, whose project was a performance for sick children at the New Haven Children’s Hospital, brought in their instruments and performed one of the Disney pieces that they transcribed for the oboe and bassoon. In less than 5 minutes, we were able to experience the power of music to help brighten the days of these sick children.
Technology is another way to be creative in a presentation. One student showed us his new blog, another student shared his website and the self-publishing company that he created and a third showed us his Kickstarter page. The visual element helped to bring these presentations alive and also liberated the speakers from their notes so that they sounded conversational and relaxed.
Audiences relate to speakers who are able to share about their personal challenges and stories. This becomes even more effective when the speaker knows what his audience’s challenges are. In our case, the audience was a group of fellow graduate school-level conservatory musicians.
One student explained that he lost a gig because he did not have high-quality recordings which spurred him into action to create a series of high-quality videos for his You Tube Channel. Everyone in the room related to that experience!
Another student created a blog did so because he did not want to see talented young musicians drop out of the field the way he almost did. We definitely heard his sense of mission and it resonated powerfully with the group.
Another student created a packet for her graduation recital that included her own program notes and a beautiful business card. For her contemporary work, she telephoned the composer and was delighted at how friendly the composer was, as well as how personal she was in talking about her piece. Her words were most encouraging to her fellow performers.
One of the best ways to engage an audience is through humor. Students shared funny anecdotes about their challenges in pulling things together under tight deadlines and with limited resources including creeping perfectionism that could have torpedoed the project had it not been for the class deadline!
A word of caution: do not use humor at your own expense! It’s great to share personal challenges and how you overcame them but there is no need to apologize. In fact it is a sign of great strength to be able to share your foibles and what you learned because that makes you human and audiences relate to that kind of honesty.
This exercise was a great way for students to practice the art of speaking in public. Their speeches also got me very excited to learn more about these projects, which are due this week. I will no doubt be sharing about these projects in future posts so stay tuned!