I see a lot of presentations. This week was particularly presentation heavy, as I ran two Bettakultcha events of my own, and I was also fortunate to be asked to take part in SPLASH, an event run by Kirklees College which encourages college students to learn active business skills.
The event was a cross between Dragon’s Den and The Apprentice. I was asked to take part as an ‘Expert’, something I would never describe myself as.
SPLASH was organised by Working Knowledge, a Social Enterprise, who aim to bridge the gap between education and the workplace. Their events look to raise the aspirations and confidence of students about to enter the world of work, by helping them to be an effective employee or even to run their own business.
I arrived at the Galpharm Stadium in Huddersfield and was led into a room already filled with my fellow ‘Experts’. Following some much needed coffee, we were all briefed on what to expect from the students and what was expected of us.
The students brief was to come up with a product or service they believed in. The practicalities of it were paramount, just as long as it wasn’t a cure for all disease, world peace, an accurate weather forecast or some other fantasy idea.
Over the course of the day we had several encounters with the students; from an initial 30 second pitch (which was quite a scrum), to sitting down with individual groups and assessing different aspects of their idea from a marketing, finance and product point of view.
Unsurprisingly some of the students didn’t seem to want to engage in the early stages. You can’t really blame them; they’d been totally removed from their comfort zone and naturally must have felt nervous. Little did they know, we all had the same feelings!
What soon became clear was that they had lots of great ideas, but these ideas needed bringing out of them. Students who were very confident initially sometimes masked the ideas of the quieter ones.
However, with some encouragement the ideas came forward and developed, and great ideas they were too. The students looked at problems in a different way and took angles most businesses would dismiss; maybe this was down to the fact that they had no inhibitions? Maybe more businesses should work that way?
As the day developed and the final Dragon’s Den style presentations loomed (thankfully, sans stairs), you could physically see the confidence grow in the students who had struggled in the morning.
The final presentations were all fantastic. One group were clearly dismayed that some of their flip chart sheets had gone missing – they needn’t have been. One lesson I hope they learned, was that the sheets weren’t important, the ideas were. And the ideas were very good.
I hope that the students learnt a lot from us ‘Experts’. I know that all the ‘Experts’ definitely picked up loads from the students.
Everyone I spoke to left SPLASH feeling energised, if tired, and inspired by what the coming generations can create when they’re told that they can.
For me, one of the biggest lessons business people should be passing on is that they don’t need permission to do what they want to, they just need to get on and do it. It’s ok if they fail sometimes, because that’s how they’ll learn what doesn’t work.
I’d heartily recommend that if you’re lucky enough to be invited to take part in a Working Knowledge event you grab it with both hands. You and your business will get so much out of the experience and with luck, you’ll help a future business find its beginnings.