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Our First Assembly And Keeping The Attention Of 500 Eighth Graders

Back in September we had an idea. Could we give a compelling talk to an auditorium full of thirteen year olds? Our motivation ran a bit deeper. Our nephew was about to head to high school, and this might be the last chance for us to give a talk to him and his classmates before sports, girls, and schoolwork completely took over his life.

In this episode we discuss how the whole thing came together, from our brother’s introduction to the school principal, to pitching him on the idea and trying to secure a budget for the speaking engagement. We also talk through exactly how we came up with the idea for the talk, and what we did in the final weeks to create one of the most engaging hour long talks we’ve done in a while.

If you’re interested in learning about how to convince someone to give you a platform to speak, what goes into putting on an event like this, how to plan and structure a long talk, and what it takes to create additional value for yourself (like video assets, potential press, and other speaking opportunities) tune into this episode and share with a friend that mind find it valuable. Throughout this episode we let you listen in on some of the calls we had to make this happen, and include excerpts from the actual talk we delivered last week.

Show Notes

0:30 Back in September our brother Oleg came to us with an interesting idea. He wanted us to give a talk at our 13 year old nephew’s school, right before he started High school.

1:10 This is one of the biggest middle schools in Worcester, MA, with about 1,000 students.

1:40 One of the reasons why our brother had this idea is that he new that this particular principal was always open to new ideas if it meant helping his students.

2:34 Vadim and I started to proactively looking for opportunities to speak in public 6 years ago when we moved to NYC, as a way to build credibility. We got to a point where we almost never said no to an opportunity to speak, just to get better at it, and spoke to anywhere from 50 – 1000 people.

4:30 Of course partly we said yes to this because it was a chance to do something our nephew would always remember, but in part it was a chance to start speaking on front of students on a more regular basis if we chose to.

6:00 All it took is for our brother to mention the idea to the principal after school one day, and he agreed to a call with us.

6:08 Hot tip, if you’re an entrepreneur selling into schools, go through the parents and you’ll get the decision maker quickly.

6:30 Once we got on the call with him we treated it like any other sales call and first built some credibility about ourselves, and then started asking questions doing our discovery to see what kind of assemblies they have done. And we found out quickly that they had never done anything around entrepreneurship.

7:10 We got him bought in and then asked for budget. Although we had to push him to be the first to throw out a number, had to literally keep asking for him to tell us what an appropriate number would be, eventually he said he would try to get $1,000 from the Dept. of Education for this.

7:30 Although he wasn’t able to secure that funding, we said yes anyway, and finally agreed to do the assembly just about 4 weeks ago.

12:00 If you heard any of our guests during our live event Scaling Mentorship series, you know that we had a bunch of live events in May, so we didn’t actually get a chance to work on this assembly until about 2 weeks before it.

12:36 So we wanted to walk you through our exact process of constructing a speech from scratch.

13:09 So step one was figuring out what is the skeleton of the talk. We wanted to talk about Why Creators Rules The World, but we didn’t know the structure.

13:48 Though we did have an idea of how to start constructing the talk, and we talk about it at length in episode 14, “Public Speaking Techniques Used By Billionaires, Actors, and Presidents”

13:55 Here’s an overview: 1) We only use images because we know visuals engage an audience 2) We need to have a solid beginning, or a hook, 3) We had to have a strong close because that’s what many people remember, 4) The whole talk had to be story based because people only pay attention to and remember stories. And using images helps us remember the stories.

15:33 We don’t do any real memorizing, though we did practice this presentation 5-6 times so we remembered what we wanted to say in each story.

15:59 We also constantly edit the presentation as we practice is because you can’t really know how it will sound until you try presenting it.

16:25 To start the presentation, we made it interactive and turned it into a game for the kids.

18:38 Remember when you give a presentation, you can’t just state facts, you have to describe things in an actual story, so you can take creative license there.

21:28 So we had this outline of all these stories of entrepreneurs, but we didn’t know the structure. The interactive piece in the beginning helped us anchor the presentation, but we also wanted to weave our own story into it.

22:08 Our process is to find a bunch of images at first after we write an outline to start putting them into slides so that it feels less intimidating to start a presentation. We can reorganize the slides and stories later.

22:53 But we didn’t start editing until we started practicing the talk. In the book Originals, they talk about how Martin Luther King Jr. practiced his I Have a Dream speech every day up until 10 minutes before the talk, and he didn’t even have that quote in the presentation. He only said it because he had told that Dream story so many times before in other talks. So practicing and constantly editing is critical in preparing for any talks.

23:45 If your practice enough, you’ll be comfortable enough during the presentation where you’ll think of ideas on the spot while you’re talking.

24:42 The last part of the presentation that was important was the close. We thought we would play the parody video we did of Macklemore’s These Days, to show them the power of being a creator and that we practice what we preach. The reaction was awesome.

26:50 Fast forward to the week of the presentation which was last week, and we scrambled last minute to get a professional video, which we got through a referral from someone we know locally, and we also cold called the local newspaper to try and get some press.

30:00 In the end of the day, even though we didn’t get paid for it, doing this talk is giving us the ability to say we kept a group of young people engaged for an hour, which can help us get future speaking opportunities, but there were also so many intangible benefits.

33:20 We always talk about how fulfillment and happiness come from having varied and interesting experiences. And that’s exactly what this day was.

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