As part of a How-to-AIM series, Joseph and David have given their advice on (dreaded) WACs and (unending) readings. Now I’m gonna teach you how to CP (class participate) like a pro. Basically, I’m gonna teach you how to pretend you know what you’re saying.
CP, as we all know, makes up 50% or more of your grade–so it’s extremely important to buff up on your CP game. Here’s how I overcame my fears and learned to raise my hand:
- Change your mindset: Others are more preoccupied over their own worries than fuss on your mistakes.
It’s normal to be paralyzed and intimidated—but believe me, everyone else in the room feels the same way as you. To be honest, no one in the room is thinking about what you say, but trust me, they are more preoccupied with their own insecurities. If you realize that the world doesn’t revolve around you, you’re one step closer to mastering CP!
- Goal is to contribute, not to make a noise!
CP to contribute to learning; not to get points. What can your classmates get from you that will be valuable to their learning?
To be fair, I was also quite shy on my first weeks at AIM. I thought my opinions did not matter. I didn’t see financial statements or regression models until Professor George Tan and Professor Ricky Lim came to my life.
What I did lack, I tried to explain in different points of views: business concepts and patterns that I recognized in other contexts, such as in anthropology or social psychology.
The point is, everyone has something to contribute. Different perspectives offer a rich classroom learning experience.
This is the hardest part to learn: active listening skills. We tend to listen to the voices in our own heads first, trying to repeat what we want to say in front of class to avoid messing up. However, when we’re ready to raise our hands, the professor has already moved on to a different topic or question!
It’s hard to move on, especially when you believe you have an extremely valid point to say. But believe me, it’s better to move on rather than waste airtime. Your professors will appreciate you for it.
Listen to the question; and answer accordingly. Again, the goal is to contribute to learning and not to be the class superstar.
- Treat every CP airtime like an elevator pitch.
The less words you can utilize to get your point across, the better. It helps to organize your thoughts—think of your ideas in key terms and bullet points vs. complete sentences. Share airtime to your other classmates and don’t hog the limelight.
Hence, avoid preambles and unnecessary fillers. They’re annoying, useless, and a waste-of-time.
Also, avoid phrases that express uncertainty such as, “I think…” Some professors take more offense from it than others.
- Read beyond the required readings.
They give us so many readings in AIM, but it pays to go beyond required readings for the discussion’s enrichment. I don’t do this all the time, but if a certain concept interests me, I go beyond the readings and go to Google. I don’t accept the readings at face value, and try to squeeze in some time to learn more about news and concepts behind the topics, or try to Google questions that answer the “Why” questions at the back of my head.
For example, for the Apple case reading in marketing class, I Googled further about the concept behind “brand cults.” When we learned about the Enron accounting fraud, I Googled about why big executives do something ethically wrong even if they know it is wrong. When we read about Uber and the sharing economy, I had to Google on how the “trust system” was put into place for these kinds of systems. Since I am very interested in psychology and anthropological patterns, I try to research further to understand the relationships and mechanisms behind it.
- Confidence is key. But if you’re wrong, it’s not the end of the world.
I remember participating in class about a brake fluid brand in marketing—something I didn’t know much about. I still gave it a try anyway and ended up getting an echoing “NO!” from the whole class. Don’t let that get you down. It’s better to be wrong now in b-school than be wrong at some future job.
Hope everyone’s having fun at AIM! It will be an arduous 15 months ahead!
P.S. Professors know when you hadn’t read the case. They wont say anything, but trust me, they know when you’re BS-ing. Don’t waste your, your professor’s, and your cohort’s time.