Saturday, June 30, 2012

Seize the Shibir

Green Day Concert Crowd - Put Your Hands Up For Green Day

Bill Clinton, Lady Gaga, and Chris Rock all have one thing in common - they know how to work a crowd, and we can too at a shibir or a convention! 

Sure, it’s a larger audience, but to be an effective shibir speaker, we will have to do a few things different from what we already do on a Sunday-to-Sunday basis. Aside from a larger audience, we have a new setting, a new microphone, and new faces in the crowd.

As always, we will need to do our SUS in order to to give our talk meaning, but an article at Lifehacker gave us a few more pointers:

Know Your Environment: Presentations always start with knowing the environment. How many people will be there? Am I presenting to K1, K2, Kindergarteners, or 8th graders? Will I have a screen? Remember, you, the presenter, are responsible for getting the message across to the audience. Therefore, don’t be afraid to make a simple request in order to make your presentation flow smoothly.

Body Language: Every Sunday, we have the chance to have one-to-one eye contact with every single person in the room. When talking to a bigger crowd, eye contact is still important though much harder. Therefore, we have to be strategic. Break down the audience into different blocks, and work with each of the blocks one at a time. Imagining the audience as a huge mass will make it harder for you to develop a connection with your crowd.

Keep it Simple: Try to avoid using a large amount of special effects in the presentation. Don’t sacrifice clarity for animations, sounds, and/or background images. Even if we’re using PowerPoint, it’s best to keep the slides straightforward and clean.

Interactivity: Without being a afternoon talk-show host, there are certainly ways that we can connect with our audience at shibirs. Because there is a large audience, things might get tricky when we’re trying to get interactive, but we can always create exercises to make it happen by asking the audience to do any of the following.
  • "Turn to the person on your left and talk about..."
  • "Write 3 things on your sticky note that..."
  • "Raise your hand if..."
  • "Rub your tummy, stomp your feet, etc." (for bal mandal of course)
Getting out from behind the podium is also another way to connect with the audience as well as getting a wireless mic to ask the audience questions to get interaction. Of course, we would be wise to avoid frivolous inquiry like, "Who is the President?" "What is agna?" "Who can define raajipo?" 

All in all, a shibir talk just requires a modified approach that would not be possible without the basic understanding of a Sunday talk, for only after captivating a sabha audience can we hope to hold a shibir audience. 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Know your Audience - But first get feedback

Many centers had graduation sabha this weekend. We had one. We were asked to give a small 10 minute keynote talk. Awesome. We fired up the SUS engine and also were sent a link to a great commencement talk that has been making its way across the internet. The entire video is embedded below. In it English teacher David McCullough makes the audacious statement to the audience that they are not special. He was looking at the entitlement attitude that pervades high school

His best quote two quotes:

You see, if everyone is special, then no one is.  If everyone gets a trophy, trophies become meaningless.

The fulfilling life, the distinctive life, the relevant life, is an achievement, not something that will fall into your lap because you're a nice person or mommy ordered it from the caterer.  

So we read all this and we felt we were set.

Simple: Graduation is the start of trying to become special, even though we are not right now.
Unexpected: Telling all the graduate that they are not special.
Stories: We had a few prasangs that fit the bill.

We gave the talk.

A few people told us - That was a great talk.

Then we asked our board of people who we trust to give feedback. And one person gave us a gem.
"You started off great, but then you went to the you are not special part. I see where you were going with that. It definitely engaged the older kids. There were many shishu and small bal/balikas. When you tell them they are not special, they can really take it the wrong the way."

Think about your audience. We have mentioned it so many times before. But this time we simply forgot about it. A very good learning point. We hope we don't forget it again.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Spelling Out Kusang

As always, we love to share examples that communicate our timeless topics of Satsang in a contemporary if not relevant way, and a fellow sabhaologist sent us this example to explain the idea of kusang.

More than often on the topic of kusang we find ourselves hearing about immoral folks who threaten to take us off the path to moksh, but kusang is much more subtle than we often think it is - just like the words we input into a search query on Google.
Grammar predicts a query as much as the people we choose to include in our circle. We all have our flaws, but some flaws carry more danger (e.g. pressure to break our niyams) than others (e.g. crave chocolate incessantly). Our awareness of these defects can do much to safeguard our satsang like a simple spell check can do to guiding a more meaningful search.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Keep it Unexpected - Teamwork

This week there is a Balika/Bal topic on teamwork. This can and should be a great topic for the kids. Lots of interaction and really good values to learn. We thought of some ways to introduce teamwork and realized we need to keep UNEXPECTED in mind.

Initially we thought it would be good to act out the bhodh katha where a king request a strong man to break a quiver of arrows and then requested a weak person to break just one arrow. The kids would love breaking sticks, it would be fun, they will be taken by surprise and really pay attention. Then we did some investigation. We surreptitiously talked to several balikas and balaks about what they are going to do for the summer (just to break the ice) and then very benignly mentioned the starting of this story. Nearly all of them knew the story, and most finished it off for us before we could get to the end.

Now this is a great lesson. We felt that the story would be unexpected, but found that this was not really the case as most already knew it. That is good to know. We may still do the exercise of breaking sticks, but will not start the talk with this example. Also instead of dictating the activity we will request some of the kids who are well versed to lead in the activity and spend more time driving home the point of teamwork making us stronger.

What should we do for unexpected? That is still an open question. If you have any ideas (before Sunday) let us know!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Retention Remixed


As always, we love to see what ideas others have to share, so here's one sent to us a few days ago on the timeless topic of how to keep sabha topics fresh. For those that try this idea out, please shoot us a photo - we'd love to feature it to our fellow sabhaologists.
I take care of K2 sabhas in my region, and one of the most frustrating things in sabha has been properly doing the monthly retention game.  
The K2s are old enough to not really care about the games that can be somewhat silly, and the session really lacks the stickiness punch needed to make an impact. 
So, much like with the vicharan shake-up which has been going amazingly well (even the kishores who never want to put their cell phones away in sabha now can't help putting them away during these sessions), I tried something different. 
In our K2 sabha room, we have a huge pin board. Usually we put up issues of Bliss or Nilkanth on it, but nobody reads them. I decided to put up a huge empty board, and put out a bunch of markers near the beginning and at the end of each sabha. Kishores then write memorable quotes, draw some quick picture, or maybe write a phrase about a story that we heard in sabha. 
What makes this effective is that the "retention" part of it is ongoing. And because they themselves write on it, it makes it a lot more interesting and memorable when they look back on it every time they come to sabha.  
It's a collage of different colors, different hand writings, a mix of English and Gujarati. It adds a lot more color to our sabha room also. 
Try putting something like this up in your sabha room. June is about to start. It may just change how memorable a month's worth of sabhas can be. 
Give something like this a shot. If these kinds of experiments can be done at a shiksharbandh mandir center, maybe others can try it also.