How to Crush your Elementary School Career Day Presentation

I recently had the opportunity to speak at Career Day at the school where my kids go – Heards Ferry Elementary School in Sandy Springs, GA. I spoke to 100+ fourth graders about a career in marketing.


Heards Ferry Elementary School

Now, I’ve given presentations in front of some very large audiences in recent years.  But this was by far the most nerve wracking public speaking experience I’ve ever had.

When I’m speaking in front of a room of marketers or executives, I know the audience.  I know how to talk to them.  I know what kinds of jokes they’ll laugh at.  I know how to structure a presentation that will provide real value.

This was different.  I had to explain my job to 4th graders.  And that’s not nearly as easy as it seems.  I once asked my kids the question: “What does Daddy do for a living?” You can see their answer in the video below.

As the presentation day got closer, I kept thinking about that scene in City Slickers where Billy Crystal is presenting at  career day at his son’s school and realizes his life basically has no meaning, which ultimately pushes him into a mid-life crisis. I really didn’t want that to happen to me.

So, I spent a few days outlining what I wanted to say about marketing. Then I built some simple slides to make my points. The presentation ended up going very well.  Actually, much better than I had thought it would.  In the end, the whole experience turned out to be really fun.

So if you get “volun-told” that you are presenting at you kid’s next Career Day, here are some tips that should help you survive.

1) Keep it Simple Stupid

Marketers can be pretty sophisticated in the way we think and talk. I mean, we are one of the few groups of professionals that can speak in complete sentences using only acronyms (SEO, SEM, PPC, CPM, ABM, SQL, MQL, CRM, etc.)! When you are presenting to kids, you have to strip all of that noise out. You can’t talk about the 3 C’s, 4 P’s or Porter’s Five Forces. You have to come up with the simplest possible definition of what you do.

Here’s an example of what NOT to say to a room of 4th graders:

“I spend my day optimizing digital ad campaigns to ensure we are hitting our KPIs and the company is generating a strong ROI on our marketing investments.”

Here’s what I said to the kids:

“I help people learn about cool new products so they want to buy them or they ask their Mom and Dad to buy it for them.”

When I said that, the kids immediately got it. One kid asked, “So you do the ads we see on TV?”  Exactly!

Below you can see the slides that I presented to the kids. They’re super simple and helped reinforce the key points I was making to the class.

 2) Make it Relevant to Their World

Screen Shot 2018-06-29 at 8.37.54 PM.png

Rainbow Unicorn Slime

To explain how to do marketing, I used a product example that almost every kid in the class could relate to: SLIME! My kids are totally obsessed with slime, and it turns out they aren’t the only ones.  Just saying the word “slime” got every kid in the class excited.  So, I poised this question to the kids:

Imagine that you invented the best rainbow unicorn slime ever. How would you get people to buy it?

Then we talked about how you could create a marketing campaign for that slime.  I told them that they have to ask 4 simple questions:

    • Who am I selling the slime to?
    • What’s my message about the slime?
    • Where can I reach them?
    • How do I get them to remember?

The kids had some great answers to all of these questions, especially about the messaging. A few of the kids came up with their own jingles for this special rainbow unicorn slime right on the spot.  They were really getting the idea.

3) Get the Kids Involved

raised hands

An interesting thing I noticed is that 4th graders raise their hands, even if they have no clue what they want to say.  They just hold their hand up high and often use the other hand to reinforce it.  Multiple times in the class I called on a kid who’s hand was raised, only to have him or her give me a blank stare, and then mumble “I forgot.” But, that’s not a bad thing.  These kids wanted to participate.  They wanted to be part of the discussion.  And, they made some really great points.  Now, as the speaker, you have to control the room.  In a 4th grade class, there’s a fine line between participation and pandemonium.  But, letting the kids talk ended up being a great thing for the presentation and kept everyone engaged.

4) Show Fun Examples of Work

I played the kids a bunch of TV ads to demonstrate ways you can sell your product, including some classics from the past:

  • Life Cereal: “Mikey Likes It”
  • Toys R Us: “I’m a Toys R Us Kid”
  • Coca-Cola: “I’d Like to Give the World a Coke”
  • Reeses Peanut Butter Cups: “You put your chocolate in my peanut butter”

I also showed them more current ads for Sour Patch Kids, Doritos and M&Ms.  We watched the ads and had a great discussion about what the key messages were. I asked the kids which ad they liked best, and the majority said the Doritos ad.  These kids just don’t appreciate the classics!

If you’re interested, you can watch the playlist below with all the ads I played for the class.

5) Gamify It

After the TV ads, we played a game I called “Name That Jingle”.  I played them the music from a well-known jingle and they had to tell me the brand.  This helped me make the point that that marketers want you to remember their product.  One way to do that is to come up with a catchy jingle that gets stuck in your head. I was impressed that these kids knew almost every jingle I played, including State Farm, Nationwide and Farmers. It does beg a question: why do insurance companies have the best jingles?

Listen to the jingles below and see if you can guess the brand.

6) Bring a lot of swag

Of course, you cannot show up at career day empty handed.  You have to bring some swag from your company.  I brought a ton of ParkMobile stuff – koozies, lanyards, cups, pens, notebooks, etc., and these kids cleared me out.   I also brought some “premium items”, hats and shirts that I gave to the kids who gave me the best answers.  But, the kids were just as excited to get a pen as they were to get a shirt.  So, just bring something for them. They’ll love whatever you give them.  It was pretty funny when my wife came home later that day after volunteering at the school and told me that virtually every kid was running around with ParkMobile swag. It’s like I created an army of mobile billboards!

So that’s my advice for people doing elementary school career day presentations. If you get tapped to do one, don’t be afraid. You’ll be surprised just how much these kids will love it. And you just might have some fun too.

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