Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Memorable Lesson on a Forgettable Night

During four years as a public speaking instructor, one of the finest lessons I ever taught my class regarding feedback wasn’t even in the lesson plan.

It was midway through the semester when things drag a little, but this particular night felt electric. I was making points left and right. I was using analogies. I was employing multimedia. I was sharing relevant stories from my background. Surely, students would be speaking of this night for the rest of their academic careers.

Early in the class, I noticed one student trying somewhat timidly to get my attention. I dismissed it. In my mind, I could not possibly be interrupted on such a monumental night. Undeterred, he became more brazen as class continued, finally holding up a notebook with six giant letters scribbled on it.

Deeply annoyed, I glanced at the letters and started to read them to myself, one after the next. Starting from the left, I read: Z … I … P … P … E … R. As I finished the last one, the gravity of the situation hit me.

As it turned out, this lecture had been literally off the hook.

I moved closer to the lectern, quickly fixed the wardrobe malfunction and continued on. Now that’s how you respond to audience feedback.

And, chances are, the moment had been just as memorable for the students as I thought, just not for the reasons I had hoped.