As I near the end of my tenure as a Communication Fellow, grateful and humbled by the opportunity, I leave Cacophony with just a couple of lessons that I’ve learned along the way.
The camera does 75% of my job:
No matter what their anxieties are about being filmed, no matter how shrill the protests, students will invariably be disappointed if they don’t get the chance to see themselves on camera, regardless of whether they have delivered an amazing or horrendous presentation. While we attempt to film every rehearsal, occasionally this process is impeded by technical glitches, space or time constraints during back to back rehearsals. Though a rare occurrence, when this does happen, students tend to schlump in their seats, a confused squinting of the eyes takes place and a questioning tilt of the head occurs to better hear my explanation for why I can’t show them presenting their Business Policy Law case analysis. Fortunately, these occasions are remedied for the most part, by VOCAT, allowing me (through Tom) to give students online access to their video.
Without video feedback, students are genuinely more confused about the human feedback that I provide. They can’t remember the distracting way that they clapped and yelled, “Bottom Line!” at the end of every slide nor the especially elegant example they provided illustrating the need for forward integration. They didn’t feel glued to the six inch spot they stood in for 10 minutes, nor did they feel the odd and constant movement of their arm away from their shoulder joint while they discussed their industry overview. All of these (true) scenarios become real on the projector screen and my role is to lead them through it, offering strategies for remedying the distractions and reinforcing their strengths.
Most BPL faculty don’t know what they are missing:
The majority of faculty teaching BPL courses don’t realize the opportunity they miss out on by not taking advantage of the in-class planning workshop they are entitled to. It’s always a challenge to convince feverishly busy faculty to shoehorn a communications workshop into class time – especially one not perceived to be directly related to their specific assignment – even when it is an option for every BPL course. What faculty may not understand, though, is that this session is always tailored to their specific Case Analysis project, and represents a scaffolding of the assignment in a way that can directly and positively affect its quality.
I suspect there is a fear that Fellows will use the time to go over presentation skills, from the (obvious) mechanics of delivery (make eye contact, don’t say ‘um’) to structural givens (make sure you have an introduction/conclusion). Not that these are unimportant points, but professors often do those tasks themselves, admonishing, for example, students not to read from a script. Rarely though do they offer them any specific strategies for doing so. Although Fellows regularly advise students on strategies for being less dependent on notes, this advice (e.g., strategically organizing their content, or emphasizing conceptual fluency over memorization) is not necessarily easy to implement in the 5-7 days before their in-class presentation. This information could be better utilized earlier in the term, and thus earlier in students’ drafting process, rather than superficially at the end.
Please, share your insights, epiphanies and other BPL confessions!