“Chicago, we’re nearing the end of our world tour. We’re trying to find the loudest city in the world. So far, it’s Montreal. Show ‘em how it’s done, Chicago!”
The roar that followed likely could have been heard around the globe. Even Marc, the “top selling tropical salsa artist of all time,” four-time Grammy Award winner, and eight-time Latin Grammy Award winner, stood dumbfounded, taking in the minutes-long cheer rising from all corners of the 18,500-person arena. Visibly, the place was sold out. From my vantage point at about a 35 degree angle to the stage, I could perfectly see the people in the audience as well as Marc’s demeanor and expressions as he bounced around the stage. Here’s what I learned from observing Marc, the consummate live performer:
- Interact with the audience
- Make it a competition
- Tap into your attendees’ pride
Interact with the audience
Transforming legal research sessions into conversations, when feasible, takes practice but, when honed, takes some burden off of you, the speaker, and transfers some of it onto the students. It also fosters a more engaging, two-way atmosphere, rather than a one-sided, didactic lecture. From foreign students with whom I have spoken about the differences between the educational systems in the U.S. and their home countries, the participatory nature of American instruction is one aspect that students notice and appreciate. Why not capitalize on a local style that makes learning more enjoyable for all involved?
Make a competition
In addition to “conversing” with your audience as you teach them about/how to conduct legal research, why not game-ify your legal research classes and presentations? While this is not a new concept – our colleagues have presented on gamification of legal research at various conferences, to name just a few – you don’t have to spend elaborate amounts of time and energy creating games in order to tap into your students’ competitive sides. Law students and lawyers, in general, tend to be competitive. You could, for any legal research exercise, split the class into two groups – see which half can find the correct answers the fastest!
Tap into your attendees’ pride
Soon after arriving at Chicago-Kent College of Law, where I work, an LLM student – a foreign-trained lawyer pursuing a masters degree – had expressed to me that their post-graduation goal was to practice immigration law along the U.S.-Mexico border. To do that, I had advised him, you have to learn the language – and the cultures.
That was how we found ourselves, one snowy February Friday evening, at Allstate Arena to partake in Marc Anthony’s Viviendo World Tour. Likely the only two people in the audience who didn’t understand Spanish, we passed by people salsa-ing in the open areas next to the walkway as we wound our way to our seats. When I handed a purse that had fallen onto the floor to its owner, she replied, “gracias!”
Despite hailing from the opposite side of the globe, it turns out that this student had also grown up on a diet of English-language Marc Anthony music! Throughout the concert, we waited for the English-language songs with which we were familiar. They never came. Each time I gazed out at the sea of people, Puerto Rican flags bobbed in the waves. Someone even handed one, via a security guard, across the no-go zone, to Marc, up on the stage. He donned it, super-hero style, flag-draped back to the audience, as he glided on his moving walkway to the back of the stage for his grand exit. Marc had united the 18,000+ people in the arena by speaking their language. Literally.
The following Wednesday, as I prepared to speak about Illinois Trade Secrets research to a class of LLM students, I switched my computer’s weather feature to Celsius, so that I could make a weather remark in the students’ language – Centigrade. The U.S. is the only country in the world that uses the Fahrenheit unit of measurement and, when I speak with students about temperature or distance, inevitably we reach a mini impasse – one Celsius and Metric, the other Fahrenheit and English.
Subsequently, the student stopped by my office to conclude that the concert had been “awful,” because Marc had sung not one of the English songs with which the student was familiar. “Awful?!” I looked at him in surprise. “It was awesome!!!” Although the semester is winding down, I still have had some opportunities to converse with students during the few classes that remain. While it takes practice, and takes more time, it certainly makes the experience more engaging and fun, at least for me, as the speaker. Let’s hope the students feel the same way . . .
Notes Between Us (NBU) is a blog about conversations and topics of interest to the writers. The writers are expressing their personal opinions solely. The essays represent their personal beliefs and not that of their workplaces or any organization they are associated with.