Thinking about giving talks (Roger Palmer)

Thinking about giving talks (Roger Palmer)
Thinking about giving talks (Roger Palmer)

Thinking about giving talks (Roger Palmer)


It’s now the third week since CUBE classes began, and already there is a really good atmosphere in our Nishinomiya building. Looking forward to the longer-term, we all have to think about how we will be using our study skills.

So today I thought I’d talk a little bit about giving presentations and talks. Not so much the mechanics of giving talks, but the desire. Why do we want to stand up in front of an audience and talk to them?

As part of our Speech and Discussion classes, I have noticed that many of you are already putting in a lot of effort to prepare talks for your classmates. How do you feel about it? Do people like what you have to say? Do they listen to you? Do you learn from listening to other people give a talk? The main thing is that the amount of effort that goes in equals the amount of learning you get out. If I give a talk about any topic, I have to have a plan of what I’m going to say; I have to have enough information to talk about; I have to have enough time to talk; and I have to have the right materials to show people to make it interesting. Most of all, I have to care about the topic: I have to believe in my message and that it is important to share with other people. When all of those things are in place, I can feel confident about what I’m doing. One thing we will do in CUBE this year is to get more information about the world and discover what the key issues are. Then we can see how we feel about those topics, and which we really care about.

Talking of caring, I was walking around our CUBE building one evening this week and I noticed several groups of students working on presentations in English for the visit of the foreign exchange students from the Okamoto Campus. It was great to see so many of our students putting in so much of their time and effort. What was so special about what they were doing? After all, all of us can put in time and effort if we want to!

Well, the first good thing they were doing was they were using English as a means of communication. How does that help? Well, we can learn a lot of English (or other languages) through our own efforts, using the language for a good reason, more quickly and effectively than if we were studying. (Of course, if you have a test to pass, you have to study as well!) This is a key aspect of the Management course that Brent (Prof. Jones) is always trying to remind people about. As far as possible, learn new things while using English. If you need to study English as well, we can give you extra support and show you how to do that too. We expect you will need English in order to give business presentations, you will need English in order to work on projects with people from overseas, you need English in the wider world. So there are many reasons to use it, and lots of opportunities. Anyway, try to find as many ways as possible to use it.

The second good thing I noticed was motivation. When you work together on a project (for example, to welcome visitors to our campus), you can create something bigger than you could if you were working by yourself. So project work involves cooperation. Also, the motivation is not just personal. You are giving your own energy to help your team and to help the visitors. Their appreciation of your efforts is a huge reward. You also gain in confidence, knowing that you succeeded in getting your message across in another language and sharing new information. The more you give to other people, the more that comes back to you. I think it’s a nice idea!?

(I still get e-mails from students in Vietnam thanking me for helping them in February. But actually I learnt more from their kindness than they learnt from me! So if it can make them happy and me happy at the same time, then it is called a win-win situation.)

Oh, and a third aspect of all this is that the ideas are truly your own. That’s another really good thing. When you give a talk, you need to come up with your own opinions, think about them critically with your friends, discuss them, but then have the confidence to believe in your own ability. Because the ideas are your own, the audience will believe and trust you. You are talking with conviction about something you believe in. So a mindset in which people have courage, have no fear of mistakes, is really healthy. We’ve talked a lot about the ‘Yes we can!’ ideas of President Obama. Now is the chance for us to change our lives too. We can start with all the little things and build from there.

Anyway, I’m really looking forward to meeting the visitors to our campus. And I’m keen to see what CUBE students can do.

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