Each week, I will take Ugandans out of their comfort zones.
To be a consultant, you need a few key things:
- Know your material or subject. After all why should people listen to you? Specify your qualifications and experience in the subject you are talking about. Some Ugandans have told me that Americans boast. This is not true. They tell you why they are talking to you about that subject area. Besides, I am not American, I am Canadian and proud with Uganda coursing through my veins.
- Presentation skills. Do not bore people. There are many courses and seminars that can teach this. I trust the Dale Carnegie Institute on this one.
- Public Speaking so that you do not hyperventilate when you start talking to a crowd.
- Know your audience / customers / service purchasers / readers of what you put forward.
Writing and presenting in public never came easy for me. I am the type that hid behind computers to code so that I would not have to argue with a human being. Until one good manager decided to unmake me a nerd. She arranged for me to take courses in presentation, interpersonal skills, problem solving, etc…
Fast forward, those courses paid off. You will read about me praising Junior Achievement a lot (www.ja.org) because it is a proven education enhancement.
One time I was invited to run an all day for an ethnic group where the parents went into different rooms for their sessions and I had to spend the entire day with kids 10yrs – 19yrs. Just imagine.
Upon walking into that room and seeing these not very nice kids, the first thing I did was unplug the camera equipment which had been setup to record us so that the video would be played for the adults at the end of the day. Do you people know how much kids hold back when they are being recorded?
The company I was working for at that time believes in education for children and they paid all my expenses for that day including giving me all the material to run that workshop.
End of day, we all meet in the big hall. Each workshop leader had their video. I had none. I asked the kids to talk about their day. They did. Then this one Mugisu said “I cannot believe all you taught them was how to make money. What happened to teaching them about Jesus and holiness?”. Reply was something like “you did not invite me here to preach”. He was livid and some other parents too. But when the kids started talking, I realised why my trainer for consulting had told me “always know your audience and what they expect to learn”.
I knew my audience very well. Kids who could drop out of school (Canada has free education till you finish high school so we work hard to avoid school dropping out). These kids learned why school is important. The Economics of Staying in School (ESIS) is very powerful. This program of JA teaches basic life skills and the kids reconsider dropping out of school.
Then these two young girls stand up and do not talk. They sing. This is the song they sung. One of them contacted me years later “auntie Leah, I finished my degree in Social Studies and I am working with street kids in Toronto. I want to thank you for that one day you spent with us”. Her voice and the one for her sister are mind blowing.
Martha Leah Nangalama
Moncton, Canada (former resident in Toronto)
The writer is a committed Community Volunteer in Canada and Uganda.