Recently I was asked to be a key speaker at a graduation ceremony for Durban University of Technology. Technically they asked Karen, but as she was going on a month of island hopping holiday, it became my talk 😉
I was excited and a bit nervous. I thought of my graduation. I remember very little. I definitely didn’t recall a key speaker. That calmed me somewhat. At least, if I messed up, the graduates would most likely not remember anything in 20 years time!
After much fussing I settled on 3 points I wanted to get across, here are the basics:
1) Be Brave – to be successful you need to be brave and embrace failure. Learn from mistakes, dust yourself off and move on.
2) Have Fun – we’re way to serious as adults. If you’re spending half your life at work – make sure you enjoy it and have fun.
3) Always learn – in IT things change constantly. Keep learning.
On the day of the graduation I was blown away. Thank goodness I didn’t know (recall) what happens at graduation. I arrived an hour early and was whisked through a gigantic hallway to the back area. There would be 450 graduates and about 1500 parents and family. GULP. Thats about 1800 more people than I’ve ever spoken to before.
Four people asked me why my CV was so short. Apparently key speakers usually have an entire page of degrees, awards, status jobs etc that get read out. As thats not my style – all they had for me was a paragraph from LinkedIn (I’d say oops, but I’m proud of that).
It was 10 min before the ceremony and I was asked to take a seat downstairs in the passage with a few other people. There was a red velvet gown and hat on my chair. I had to wear that… this was my first inkling to “uh oh this is a bigger deal that I thought..”. I realised I was with about 20 other people all in various gowns – the deans and head of departments for the faculty. The Vice-Chancellor was opposite me in a matching red velvet gown and cap.
The music started and all 20 of us walked from the back of the hall down the middle and on to the stage. With 2000 people looking on. I was right at the back with the Vice Chancellor, my next surprise a few steps away. On the stage everyone filed into chairs and right at the front were 2 larger chairs. One for the Vice Chancellor and one for me. GULP. Front and centre on the stage.
I calmed my nerves by looking at all the faces in front of me. There was so much excitement and pride in the graduates faces. And the parents and family were so happy. This was their most important moment. The day they had worked for for 3+ years.
My talk went off without a hitch. I hope one person will find it valuable 🙂 Mostly the experience of being right there for each person to receive their degree or diploma was amazing. It was humbling. I found myself smiling from ear to ear when an exciting parent jumped up to applaud. To witness that much joy and pride made my year.
I’m glad I was brave enough to do this. I’m glad I was asked. I realise now that the 3 points in my talk were all applicable in that moment to me. I was brave, I had fun and I learned something new.