“Lectures don’t work at IITK yaar! That too as the first activity of the year…”
Well, this is typical of something spoken at the first meeting of the coordinators and secretaries of a hobby club at IITK after the summer vacation. Possibly the executive of the concerned council is also present, “Right, try to do something interesting.”
And that big interesting idea hardly ever seems to click (I am being politically correct by writing “hardly ever” instead of “never”)!
What is it, that you, as a coordinator can do?
Well, organize the activities that people want. Is it not?
What do people want?
I can ask people, can I not?
Umm… Let me give an example: when I ask what should the first lecture of Business Club be on, do you know what it is?
I will tell you, it is universally “Shares and Stock Markets!”
Wow! That does sound fascinating. I have always wondered how the stock markets worked. It must be a nice topic. So, how did people like the lecture? Must have been a success.
Well, I did not conduct a lecture on “Shares and Stock Markets”.
Because before understanding stock markets, you need to understand what share means. To understand that, you need to know what “ownership of a company or corporations means”. And to understand that, you need to know what a company and corporation means.
Yes, so the first lecture I conducted was on some of these simple terms, like company, corporations, public and private companies, management, board of directors, everybody’s role etc.
Okay, and how did it go?
People appreciated it. They sat all through the lecture and listening to me. We could not get a reputed person to deliver such a basic lecture!
And after that I got several mails asking when would the next lecture be.
Above is a conversation that never took place, but the lecture mentioned there did take place. And it was well attended and well appreciated!
Lectures do work at IITK! Yes, with the gymkhana clubs too, those work! But, you have to know what to deliver. And in case you think, I am being unnecessarily skeptical about the lecture on “Shares and Stock Markets”, let me tell you it has indeed not worked in past.
So, what is it? How do I know what is going to work and what is not. If people can not express correctly what do they want to know, how can I help it?
Well, thing is people know what they want. They wanted to learn business, in fact more particularly, how stock markets work. They do not know how to learn it, that’s it! And there is nothing wrong about it. After all if they knew how to do it, would you, the coordinator not be jobless? This is precisely what you are here for, to help them learn what they want to, but do not know how to. I have listed just one example here, because, it is the recent most and most dramatic one. But I bet the situation applies to almost any club. After all, how do you make people learn electronics or astronomy or aeromodelling without giving a lecture (or some form of it – lecture need not necessarily mean a monologue!).
The trick simply lies is going step-by-step. You have to realize that finally what you are supposed to run is a hobby club and pressure of academics is particularly high at this place. It is very easy for people to find reasons for not getting involved with the activities. Of course, if they do decide the way, they lose the opportunity, but it is also your failure as a coordinator in being unable to attract them to your club and then retain them. So, it is worth trying to see how can you sell your club!
As I mentioned earlier, you have to be able to go step-by-step. You have to be able to support them from all the sides, with suitable references and answering all the queries that come up from time to time. You must make sure that they do not underestimate the effort that will go on in learning things. But at the same time, you have to be able to show them that it is doable and also the value of learning. If you do not know the answer, search for it yourself, give them the answer along with the source, confess that you did not know the answer and have searched for it and then encourage them to search themselves next time. If you are unable to search the answer yourself do try to approach someone who can answer it, may be someone not otherwise active in your club or some professor or someone you know outside the campus.
And about the lectures, you have to be extremely careful in selecting the person who will deliver it. Getting the most knowledgeable person may not work! In fact it will not work if your audience has not been prepared earlier to face the knowledgeable speakers by some of the “less knowledgeable” speakers, who could be yourself or any other member of your team, who can do it the right way. Being a good orator is of course a requirement, being able to read people’s reactions and gather what is it that they do or do not understand is as important. That much knowledge of the subject will be enough, which lets him or her realize the point where he should say that (s)he does not know the answer and will look for some references to answer it later.
Next, use newsgroups. These are amazing things to support the enquiries and provide the answers. Reply promptly on the newsgroups.
Almost everything I mentioned above was to retain the people as members. But before that you also needs to attract people. For this it is essential for the club to look active. Yes, “look active”; let me talk like an insider. There is nothing insidious about doing a few things as the club activities, which are very light and general and lets more people participate, even if they are not into the hardcore agenda of your club. Because, let me confess that it is through these visible activities that the serious members, who would attend your lecture would reach you. And further since the gymkhana uses the money of all the students, general activities for masses are not just ok, but essential to fulfill the purpose of the club.
I intended to make this article much better than what it has turned out, but will improve on it sometime later.
Right now, got to sleep