Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Guest Speaking at The Royal Marketing Society

Having played a small role in helping the Royal Marketing (student society) form last year, I was delighted and rather honoured to be asked to be a guest speaker at one of the regular society meetings.  I am a keen advocate of a strong marketing society and feel that the committee this year has done an amazing job, especially when you consider that Students Union funding only applies to societies that have been up and running for a year.  (I guess a sensible viability test and filter)

Some of these students are even smiling !

Given that the target audience for the Marketing Society are undergraduates who have typically followed the Marketing Management module I run a regular big lecture slot on (with my marketing colleague Andy Whalley) I was expecting a low turn out for my session.  I braced myself for less than a handful of hardy souls.  In fact, I was doubting the logic in inviting me in the first place.  Can you really have a full time marketing lecturer deliver a guest speaker slot at the marketing society ?  Anyway...

Having worked on marking and lesson prep during the day and seen my family arrive home, it felt entirely incongrous to be going to campus to run a 1900 talk.  Campus was surprisingly buzzy, busier than I've seen it during the daylight period.  It was quite exciting.  I was quite nervous.  I did not know quite what to expect.  I was not at all sure what I had prepared would work, as clearly in a voluntary, beyond class setting the rules of the game are very different.  Firmly out of my comfort zone and regretting agreeing to particpate, I wore my favourite green hoody, with plenty of space to hide in if things went pear shaped.  Perhaps it was the stage fright of a stand up comedian I was feeling.  You know the material, you've done the gig scene for ages.  Yet every new audience provides its own particular challenge.  I often liken lecturing to the role of the stand up comedian.  I like to watch the good, the bad and the ugly to understand different approaches and unpick why some don't work as well as others.  I digress.

However, Nathan (founding society president) and the executive committee had done a sterling job in marketing the event (I guess there is a clue in the name !) and they had ensured that there was quite a large group of students in attendance.  Given a very challenging topic that felt it might be dangerously heavy on the dry stuff that doesn't work, I decided to focus my efforts on sharing with the student group (which, pleasingly included four current Royal Holloway MBA students) a light hearted career profile, the global McDonald's story that got me into academia and case study on my own global vs local marketing struggle as British Airways Sales and Marketing Manager for Russia, from back in the day when this was a hot new topic.

Royal Holloway MBA Director, Justin O'Brien
As ever, I used my own particular lecturing style, based as it is on my strongly held belief that engaging the audience is the critical objective.  "Fun Learning" is how I describe it.  I am not funny and really cannot tell jokes - but trying to find different ways to surprise, entertain, amuse and enlighten the group in front of you is always an exciting challenge.  Getting a reaction is crucial to see if it is working.  

My objective is not to (using the European learning metaphor) to fill lots of empty jugs with knowledge, but (UK style) seek to light a fire that will never go out.  I hope to inspire a natural curiosity, to enable others to look at the world in a different way (often using marketing tools and concepts) and give enough to inspire interest to go away and learn more.  I (amusingly appropriate here) remember vaguely research that suggested that 50% of information is forgotten within an hour and by the end of the week most people would be lucky to remember even 10% of any given lecture without using some form of revision.  Thus creating highly memorable 'peaks' of learning, amazing stories or facts, humourous (remember - I don't do funny) anecdotes from which personal learning journeys can commence is the modest objective I set myself.  Feedback suggests this approach generally works quite well.

Gratifyingly, the Royal Marketing session was completed, a few good questions, a few people leaving once the hour slot was done and several thank yous (now that did feel a bit strange).  A quick pint of Guiness in the pub with a hard core and back to reality.

Wonder if I will get invited back to do something next year ?