Tuesday, May 25, 2010

What "Made To Stick" taught me about speaking to high school students...

A few months ago, I volunteered to speak at my former high school, Ashbury College, about e-marketing and e-business.

It was a career day activity that involved grade 10 students where they signed up for sessions to hear about careers they might be interested in.  I was paired with Omar Sheikh, the CEO of eBargainBuddies.  We were told that we'd have 30 minutes total with three separate groups of students.  Omar and I spoke on the phone in advance and planned out our presentation.  We made a PowerPoint slide deck and decided that he's start the presentation with a top 5 reasons why you should get into e-marketing and e-business, tell them about himself and then he's throw to me and I would introduce myself and give a breakdown of e-marketing.  Omar would then finish up with 5 minutes on social media, eBargainBuddies and some advice and we'd come in at 20 minutes with 10 mins left for questions.

I have to say that I think Omar and I did a really good job of preparing.  We made an interesting deck, switched up who was talking and did our best to make our presentation as lively and interesting as possible.  We recommended they do something they are passionate about, get started as soon as they want and try to have as much fun as possible doing it.  I used Perez Hilton as an example in some of the things that I was talking about in an attempt to make it more relevant to them.  In the end, I was pretty happy with how it turned out.

A short while after the presentation, I started reading Chip and Dan Heath's "Made To Stick" and I kept thinking back to the presentation and how I could have applied what I was reading to that presentation.

I won't go into detail, because I think everyone should read the book, but it says that ideas stick when they display any number of the following characteristics:

  • Simplicity
  • Unexpectedness
  • Concreteness
  • Credibility
  • Emotional
  • Stories
As I read the book I kept thinking back to the presentation and wondering what I might have done differently.

Here's a few:

Unexpectedness - Although we did a top 5 reasons to get into emarketing/ebusiness slide at the start, I would have done something much more unexpected and shared a piece of trivia that asked them to answer a question or something fun where the answer was completely unexpected.  I could have been something interesting about Facebook or something else that might have grabbed a bit harder at the start of the presentation.

Concreteness: Here I should have used the story of Perez Hilton to illustrate what and how somebody could go about getting to emarketing and ebusiness instead of just using it as an example in a few places.  I think that the Perez Hilton story really interesting and I think it shows how an average person can transform a simple blog into a multi-million dollar business.  Actually, emarketing/ebusiness is loaded with stories just like that of Perez and I could have picked any number of stories to use this idea of concreteness.  

Credibility: I believe that this is an important concept for any idea but when dealing with teenagers, I think credibility is key.  I learned this from many years of coaching tennis/skiing but I also learned it the say of the presentation when I told them I was their gym teacher's brother in law (instant credibility).  In this area, I could have shared some quotes from prominent figures about ebusiness/emarketing that might have helped them understand the ideas and concepts we were talking about (making more concrete) were in fact real and achievable by almost anyone with a little hard work.

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