Last night I gave a my third presentation, as an Ambassadorial Scholar, to a Rotary Club. The Chicago Northwest Rotary Club welcomed me for their annual Christmas party, allowing me to give my full 20 minute speech before they even touched their dinner.
The club is rather small in number, though very active. It was a pleasure to look through their website and see pictures of familiar places—for instance elementary schools on the West Side I’ve gone past many times and the Greater Chicago Food Depository. I recommend checking out their website to get an idea of the ways they connect with West Side neighborhoods through community service. Who came up with the idea of giving third graders their very own dictionary? I think that’s brilliantly creative, generous, and, key to a successful community service project, palpable for those donating their time and money.
I learned that the club has also hosted and sponsored a few Ambassadorial Scholars, including one who is currently serving in Costa Rica.
The intimacy of the club meeting, the warmth of the members, and their familiarity with Chicago proper put me at ease, especially when I got to the point in my presentation when I describe the neighborhood where I grew up and how the experience led me to study urban sociology.
I am getting to the point where I feel better equipped to roll with the punches when I show up to a club to give a speech. My two previous presentations (Downers Grove and Naperville) were successful, and thanks to that experience my nervousness is starting to subside. Now I know, for instance, to ask if I will be using a microphone or speaking to a large group, where eye contact is trickier and side conversations more likely. I am getting a sense of how my audience responds to my speech and how to adapt my comments to a shorter time spot or to a group that’s particularly knowledgeable about the scholarship. I couldn’t ask for a more forgiving audience, as Rotarians tend to be a generous, idealistic, and curious bunch. However my goal remains to completely capture their attention and get them as excited as I am about this project.