Jessica Lee
RFS 11012/8/07

Evaluate OTHERS' Speaking in the Community

            I attended an event hosted by the Whitman College Career Center.  A man named xx came to give a talk called Successfully Applying to Graduate School.  In this hour and a half long presentation, xx gave the audience information about deciding to go to graduate school, taking a year off, picking a graduate program, how to pick graduate schools, ways to stand out as an applicant, the GRE and GRE scores, how some schools decide admissions, writing good essays, getting letters of recommendation, and on financing your graduate education via assistantships, fellowships, and grants. 

In general, I felt that xx was a very good speaker.  For one, he was very persuasive.  I felt very convinced that taking a year off before graduate school would not help me, and that I should apply to go to graduate school this coming fall.  He very effectively used relevant statistics, examples, and stories, an energetic and persuasive tone, and style (repetition-i.e. "I'll say it again: It doesn't make sense to save money to pay for graduate school").  He also used pathos and guilt to convince us to attend graduate school (something along the lines of: "Do it for your children.  You going to graduate school will increase the likelihood that they will too").

He was also very motivational, which is what I think was one of the main goals of this speech.  By the end of xx's presentation, I felt that I really could successfully apply to graduate school and that I would get accepted too.  Once again, he uselots of good examples and stories of people who got into graduate school without having the greatest scores or grades.  I also felt, by the end, that I could successfully apply to graduate school because I had all this new information that I didn't have before and that so many other potential applicants still do not have.
He also did a good job of presenting the information, using a whiteboard to emphasize or make clearer some of the points he was trying to get across.  He didn't rely too heavily on the white-board, but didn't just talk so much that I wasn't able to fully understand the point he was trying to make.  There was a good balance between speaking and visual aid.

He was also very knowledgeable about the subject of applying to graduate school.  During his presentation, he mentioned multiple students/applicants he had talked with, as well as undergraduate and graduate professors and also gave examples from numerous admissions essays.  It was obvious that he was an expert in applying to graduate school and I felt like he really did have the authority and qualifications to be giving this presentation.   

I also think he did a great job engaging the audience.  He had great eye contact; the only time he didn't have eye contact was when he was briefly jotting points of emphasis on the whiteboard.  He also asked for audience participation, willingly answered students' questions during the talk, and seemed able to read the audience pretty well, sometimes commenting on our lack of participation.

And in general, he did a great job with delivery.  He was very energetic, engaging, and passionate.  It was clear that he was excited to be there and interested in helping us.  He used some humor and I don't remember ever feeling bored.

However, there were some things that xx could have improved on.  His presentation was very disorganized, especially for being an hour and a half long.  He jumped from talking about whether or not you should go to graduate school to picking a graduate program to coming up with the list of graduate programs you will apply to.  And at the beginning of the talk, he had an audience member remind him to talk about financing your education, which ended up getting tacked onto the end of the presentation, with no good transition.  His presentation was pretty scattered and I felt like there could have been more flow and better transitions between topics.  I understand that there was a lot of information to cover, not all of which pertained to every student in the room, and I think it may have been helpful for him to give two separate talks: one on applying to med school, law school, and other professional schools, and another talk on applying to graduate school in general.

I also think that his delivery could have been more sincere.  Although I appreciated his energy and obvious passion and knowledge, is high energy and humor were sometimes distracting.  There were definitely points during the presentation when I was not paying attention to what xx was saying, but instead wondering if he's always this energetic, if he really thinks these jokes are funny, how many times he has given this same exact talk.  It seemed like he was trying too hard to be energetic and too hard to be funny that it came off as sounding overly-rehearsed and not spontaneous.