I was super inspired meeting some of the brightest, hungriest leaders from Kuala Lumpur at a Remote Year networking event with YSEALI (Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative). One young lady, Sherry asked me to speak to the students at her middle school (15-16 yr olds). My mentor once told me, “Take every speaking opportunity you can get, Matthew.” OK, I can't say no!
It is a challenge trying to sell Malaysian teenagers on the importance of communication and public speaking for their future. Of all the things on a teenager's mind, wanting to be up in front of a group is uuuuusually not one of them. Not to mention, there is a slight language barrier here. Most kids speak basic English, but some are more fluent than others.
But, CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.
Last May, I spoke to a group of high schoolers in La Paz, Bolivia. It was a bit of a snooze fest. A yawn-a-thon. I feel like I lost ‘em halfway through and couldn’t reel ‘em back in. Up to that point, all of my workshops had been with adult audiences. Speaking to students is a different ball of wax! I vowed to learn from it.
The event was at a secondary school here in KL: The SMK Taman Maluri School. Before I was about to go on, the students seemed a little antsy. It was hot outside (at least to me, they're probably used to it) and they had been sitting for a while already, listening to local filmmaker, Sham Sunder. I was feeling the excitement, bigly! I knew I had to keep the energy up if I wanted the crowd to stay with me. And I was expecting them to talk over me---especially the kids in the back.
But, I was pleasantly surprised! ~100 students seemed dialed in. They listened attentively, and participated whenever I asked them. I spoke for an hour. Once or twice I felt the audience was getting a little antsy---but I switched things up and was able to reel ‘em back in.
It was an incredibly exciting experience, interacting with these young Malay kids...finding out what their hopes and dreams are...and trying to motivate them to achieve their dreams!
I met a future Oscar winning actor, “the next Angelina Jolie”!
I met the future President of Malaysia!
I met a future Marketing Manager for a beauty products company!
I met future software engineers.
And, I met students who simply said, they just wanted to work hard and make their parents proud. :]
I learned a LOT from these students! And I think they seemed inspired. Overall, the energy was amazing.
And after I was done, the school presented me with a beautiful fruit basket and a certificate of appreciation.
If the amount of selfies requested is an indicator of success, I’d say the event was a success!
I left there elated and inspired. I realized I want to focus more of my time on working with the youth. This is way more fulfilling and exciting than adult training. I know my colleague Joshua C. Jackson knows exactly how I feel. He has traveled to 88 different cities in the U.S. this past year talking to students. Seems like a blast!
It was only my 2nd time speaking to kids, but I already know I will make the next event even more successful, and entertaining!
Here is Sherry and her sweet kids: