Talking to Business Students

Written by Chris Ivey on October 19th, 2011. Posted in Uncategorized

I was pleased to be invited back to speak to Dr. David Wright’s e-business class at the Telfer School of Management. It was a slightly smaller group than last year, but I enjoyed myself nonetheless. I always appreciate the chance to brush up on my public speaking.

I found myself thinking of James Herriot’s description of his first experience in public speaking in which he gave a rather unfortunate talk on veterinary medicine to a church youth group. The students were an incredibly polite group of young people, but they watched me with such solemn attentiveness that I was positively unnerved. My few attempts at humour fell very flat, and after a while I felt obliged to give up the attempt.

I was also very surprised that in an impromptu survey of the class, not one student expressed interest in starting their own business, (though there were a few hands visible when I asked if anyone was working towards an MBA). This was, after all, a business class in one of the country’s leading business schools. I singled out one young fellow, who was wearing a suit, and said that he had the look of an entrepreneur, and then I felt bad about it because I had obviously embarrassed him.

I talked to Dr. Wright after the lecture, and he suggested that there might have been young entrepreneurs in the group who just didn’t want to talk about their business. He added that it’s quite common for students to run start-up ventures while attending school. From my own experience dealing with entrepreneurs, I found it hard to imagine young business owners not wanting to talk about their business ideas.

It wasn’t until I was making my way back to my car, and being passed by young folk who were obviously returning from the “Occupy Ottawa” protests that it struck me that the mood on most university campuses is overwhelmingly anti-business. I had just invited budding capitalists to “out” themselves on campus, and it may be that they felt discretion is the better part of valour just now. If so, I apologize.

Chris Ivey

Christopher Ivey is the CEO of ShareThink Ltd., a technology innovation company located in Almonte, ON, just outside Ottawa.

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