On Saturday I had the distinct pleasure of speaking to a group of sixteen year-old girls who are participating in a groundbreaking program at Girlstart called Project IT Girl. And I’ll be honest, I was a little nervous about the prospect of speaking to these young ladies about, well, not being nervous speaking in front of people. They’re working on educational video games and will be presenting them to the public on Dec. 1 for the express purpose of getting feedback from the community before submitting them to the “One Laptop Per Child” project. Their games look amazing. Everything from algebra to the environment are represented in their work.
So what did I tell them about how to create talking points? First of all, a great way to get started on developing talking points for anything, including speaking the media, is to write a short list of questions which you think people might ask. I asked all the girls to answer these four questions:
1) What is your game about?
2) What are the educational objectives of your game?
3) What inspired you to develop this game?
4) How do you think your game will help students learn?
This helped them to get a bit more focused on how to speak about their games. But I was also interested in knowing how they felt in general about public speaking. I asked, “Does anyone have any fear about public speaking?” Nearly every hand shot up immediately. Then they told me specifically what generates the most fear including:
- Blanking out
- Feeling stupid
- Not knowing the right answer
- People won’t care about what they have to say!
This reminded me of similar conversations I’ve had with engineers in the senior most levels of Fortune 500 technology companies. So I assured the girls that even the smartest guys at the biggest companies in the world have exactly the same fears. It’s totally normal. I recommended that they follow these simple rules:
- Be prepared: Answer those initial questions and practice responding to them with a partner
- Be yourself: Don’t feel like you have to put on someone else’s personality to sound “smart”; just explain your project in an educated and natural way
- Be excited: You’ve put in a lot of time and energy into your game. Just think about how much it will help students all over the world, and what a great job you’ve already done! If you’re enthusiastic about your work, others will be too.
- Be honest: It’s OK if you don’t know the answer to someone’s question. Just acknowledge the question, use a bridging sentence like “That’s a great question! I’ll have to look into that. But what I DO know is…” and then launch into a talking point that you’re familiar with.
By the end of the session, the girls seemed a little less nervous about sharing their games with the public. They should be very proud of all the work they’ve done and I can’t wait to see them on Saturday, December 1, 2007, from 10 am – 12 pm at the City of Austin Mexican American Culture Center.