Last Friday I went into Queen Mary University London to deliver a three-hour session on digital marketing to a large group of IT undergraduates.

This was one of 10 teaching sessions within the Entrepreneurship in Information Technology module – an optional module that is always oversubscribed. There are 60 students, in 5 groups of 12 and they have each come up with a new business idea which they will explore and plan throughout the 12-week module.

I was impressed with the ideas the students have come up with. One in particular has the potential to be a new and really disruptive way of doing something traditional and a couple of them made me wonder why no-one has thought of them before!

Presenting to students, versus presenting to businesses

I always worry more when I am preparing workshops for students than for businesses. I am asked to take part because I’ll help make the course more ‘real world’ and less purely academic, and I know I will, but I feel a much greater sense of responsibility to ‘get it right’, than I do when presenting to businesses.

Not because it doesn’t matter for businesses, but because I know if I say something that my business audience doesn’t understand, or doesn’t agree with – they’ll say so; they’ll ask me a question.

Students – particularly large groups of undergraduates – don’t do that! In fact, the lack of immediate feedback is the most difficult thing to get used to when you start presenting to students.

They are listening and taking it in, and that becomes apparent when they divide into small working groups and you walk around checking in on them – then they ask lots of questions. But as a group, they don’t put their hands up to answer, nor to ask, questions.

So, knowing whether my content is interesting, and simple enough to understand without being so simple that it isn’t useful, is really difficult to tell in a simple lecture format.

I came up with a simple new tool for them to use, and which I think we will use ourselves with clients in future – see it in the slideshare here:

It seemed to do the trick. I got lots of questions when I did my walkabout, and the feedback I got from the course organiser was that I had highlighted several things the students hadn’t thought about, but would now.

I think that is the best outcome I could expect. If I am invited back next year, I will know I did a good job!