I was asked to give an impromptu speech to new College of Business Administration (COBA) students at the American University in the Emirates (AUE) during an orientation session on September 26, 2017. This video was captured by a colleague in attendance. The text of what I said follows:

“By the end of your four years or three years or five years, whatever it is, you are a changed person for the better and part of that change comes through your participation and engagement in the whole academic experience — beyond just the grades, beyond just your one area. So, I guess my suggestion is to open yourself up to many different opportunities, meet different people, participate in activites, do your best in your class, participate in your class, and make the most of your time in your moment here. I often joke with my students that I was in a hurry to graduate; in fact I graduated early from my undergraduate school. And then, the minute I graduated, I said “why did I do that?” Make the most of your time here; it’s a special time, it’s kind of a magical time, even though you’re going to have stress and moments of anxiety and pressure. But, overall, your college experience is a very unique and positive time for you.”

uae-flag-dayThursday, November 3, 2016 was a day of celebration and pride as expats and citizens of the United Arab Emirates alike celebrated Flag Day.

This day commemorates the anniversary of President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan‘s assumption of office as the leader of the country on November 3, 2004.

Celebrations were held throughout the seven Emirates of the UAE, including the flag raising ceremony below where Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, ‎Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai, was joined by 20,000 students from more than 120 nationalities.

The UAE flag is full of meaning and pride; it is a symbol of the rich heritage and bright future of the United Arab Emirates. You can learn more about the specifics of the flag and what each element means in the article “What does the UAE flag mean?” Thinking about the flag more philosophically, the Protocol Department of Dubai shares the following:

The Flag is considered a symbol of nationalism, independence and sovereignty in all places and at all times. It is closely connected to the national anthem, with both commanding the full respect of all citizens regardless of social status, education and financial standing. The flag represents all, without exception.

The UAE flag signifies peace, security, and happiness as seen in all national, religious, official and public events related to the political, economic, social and sports fields – whether held in the UAE or abroad.

The UAE flag reflects the ambitions and hopes of citizens and expatriates living in the land, particularly students who greet the flag daily in respect of the state’s role in creating generations of achievers and creatives.

Looking back on my two years here in Dubai, I am grateful for the many opportunities living in the United Arab Emirates has provided me. This has been an experience unlike any other and I could never fully express my gratitude for this experience. I am thankful for the exceptional vision of UAE’s leaders and proud to celebrate this wonderful country and its noble flag today!

How well can you give a speech on the spot?

Thanks to an in-class exercise, the students in my COM-103, Public Speaking class at National University now know their answer to this question.

During a class on Saturday, December 3, 2011, I challenged them to give one-minute informative or persuasive speeches about one item they randomly selected from a bag.

They energetically engaged the assignment and succeeded superbly (as I anticipated, despite initial hesitancy on their part)! Here’s how completed the exercise:

I brought a bag I had earlier filled with 20 random items. After announcing and explaining the exercise to my students, I walked around the room, bag in hand, instructing each student to reach in and retrieve one item without looking.

The selected items included:

  1. Bac’n Buds Plastic Jar (3.25 oz)
  2. Black Wine Gift Bag
  3. Blueberry Muffin Mix (7 oz)
  4. Göt 2 Be Hair Gel (2.5 oz)
  5. Hand Sewn Bag of Marbles
  6. Hand-Held Hole Puncher
  7. Large Yellow Sponge
  8. New England Patriots Helmet Bank
  9. Playing Cards from London (52)
  10. Rayovac 6 Volt Lantern Battery
  11. Red Bandanna Neck Cooler
  12. Synthetic Pillow Stuffing.

I then gave my students 15 minutes to research and prepare a minimum one-minute speech about the item (using the computers at their desks).

Once they were ready, we began. While each student spoke I clocked their presentation without giving them any indication as to their progress or total time.

After giving the speech, each student wrote his or her name on the board and, next to their name, the length of time they guessed their speech to have been. I then told them how long their speech actually was, which they then wrote down on the board next to their estimated time.

My intent was to help them understand the differences in perceived time versus actual time — while also gaining practice giving speeches in a somewhat improvisational way.

Notably, with one exception, all of the students underestimated their total time, generally by a large margin. In one surprising case, a student’s estimate of her time was exactly the length of her speech!

The results are as follows:

  1. Guess: 0:55 | Actual: 3:20 | Difference: -2:25
  2. Guess: 0:45 | Actual: 1:11 | Difference:  -0:26
  3. Guess: 1:05 | Actual 1:05 | Difference: 0.00
  4. Guess: 1:00 | Actual: 0:26 | Difference: +0.34
  5. Guess: 1:01 | Actual: 0:51 | Difference: -0:10
  6. Guess: 0:40 | Actual: 1:00 | Difference: -0:20
  7. Guess: 0:40 | Actual: 0:57 | Difference: -0:17
  8. Guess: 1:21 | Actual: 1:31 | Difference: -0:10
  9. Guess: 1:07 | Actual: 2:04 | Difference: -0:57
  10. Guess: 1:04 | Actual 2:09 | Difference: -1:05
  11. Guess: 0:12 | Actual: 0:15 | Difference: -0.03
  12. Guess: 1:30 | Actual 1:35 | Difference: -.05

In one particularly poignant speech, the student with the red bandanna neck cooler first presented a thorough overview of the history and uses of the item, but then explained how it also represented gang affiliation and death in her Los Angeles neighborhood. I was touched and impressed by how mature and meaningfully this student presented something so personal.

Overall the students seemed to enjoy the exercise . And, as I anticipated, each approached his or her item with a unique angle, but with an equal ambition to achieve. In total, the exercise took an hour to complete, and it really helped us start the class off with exceptional energy and excitement.

So are you ready to give your surprise speech?