This week for the first time in almost a year I had a speaking gig, in person, face to face. In the last year I have done a number of gigs but because of Covid-19 they have all been virtual. That’s okay but it certainly isn’t the same as being face to face with your audience. To be able to gage their body language, their facial expressions, or how much you have them interested in your story is so much easier when you are in the same room and not looking at them on a screen.
I was at Point Cook Secondary College, speaking to their year 12 students on the first day of their school year, for the 3rd year running. Now usually I see them in the city at RMIT where they would do a number of other things that day to show them what is waiting for them after high school. But this year we were in the school gymnasium which was huge! The students were so excited to be back at school after such a disruptive year last year. There were approximately 390 students, I had two huge screens projecting my presentation and they were all pretty good at social distancing and most were wearing masks. This was definitely different to looking at your audience on a small screen, it was wonderful!
Even with such a large audience you always find that there are a number of people you click with, who are constantly nodding in agreement or smile at you when you happen to look at them. I always hope that I have really inspired someone within the audience and I anticipate that there will be some questions that the students don’t want to ask me in front of the entire audience and this day was no different.
Speaking to high school students is funny because you know there are questions, but they are scared to ask them. Primary school students are never scared to ask a question and I have had some really funny ones in the past. The younger students don’t care if people think their question is dumb or silly, they just ask away. But the other day after my talk I had a number of students come up to me and wait to have a chat. It is always amazing when even just one person tells you that you have made a difference and that day I had quite a few say that to me. Then once everyone had left there was one young man still standing there, waiting.
I turned to him and asked him how I could help him. He then asked me the toughest question I think I have ever been asked.
He said, ‘Do you know the meaning of life?’
Wow, how do you answer something like that. I took a few moments to think and then responded, ‘I think everyone’s meaning of life is different. You have to find what it means to you. For me it is giving back and helping where I can.’
He looked thoughtfully at me, shook his head up and down as if agreeing and then asked me if I was religious. I told him that I believed I had a higher power and that I had gone to church and Sunday school as a child.
He said, ‘Do you pray to God that you will win your races?’
I replied, ‘God can’t help me win the race, I have to put in the hard work myself. I might pray that I do the best I can, but there are no short cuts. For you, in year 12 you have to do the work to see the results.’
I guess he was happy with my answer because I could see that he smiled, then thanked me and headed off. The teacher who had organised for me to come to the school looked at me and said, ‘Good answer.’ I certainly hope it was!
Now if I had been doing this presentation virtually, that young man most likely wouldn’t have asked me those questions and hopefully I was able to give him some things to think about because he gave me things to think about. He certainly was a deep thinker.
I really hope that I get to do more face to face gigs and I feel very fortunate that I was able to do this one the other day.
Like that young man asked, I ask you ‘What is your meaning of life?’
Carol Cooke AM
If you want to book Carol to speak to your school, community or corporate group simply call VIS Reception on 03 9425 0000 or email (email@example.com).