While presenting to students in person is great, it may not always be financially or physically possible.
“I think Zoom is the second-best way to do it versus in person and given the challenges we have with the cost of travel and the impact that you can make with online, I think online is a fantastic idea,” says Marty Grunder, president and CEO of Grunder Landscaping Co. based in Miamisburg, Ohio.
Virtual presentations should not be longer than 30 minutes as it’s harder to connect with students and see their body language. Grunder says you need to be so engaging and provocative when presenting that the students want to focus on you.
One example Grunder has seen is a speaker who did an online presentation about entrepreneurship and he used a number of different hats to illustrate the different roles you have as an entrepreneur.
One way to present to students virtually is through the Nepris platform that NALP has partnered with. Nepris is a web-based system that connects educators and learners with a network of industry professionals, virtually, bringing real-world relevance and career exposure to students. Nepris also provides a skills-based volunteering platform for organizations to extend education outreach and build their brand for the future workforce.
Through the Nepris platform landscape professionals have the opportunity to offer a virtual chat on the topic of their choice and reach over 135,000 educators and 1.5 million students across the country.
“Nepris is a wonderful program everybody in NALP ought to be looking at,” Grunder says.
He says his most successful Nepris session so far was when he brought in three of his team members and interviewed them about what they do at the company.
“Virtual might be your best, easiest path of least resistance to try and get a relationship,” Grunder says. “I think it’s a smart and efficient way for you to be in a couple places at once.”
Presentation Topics and Format
If you’re willing to present to students but are unsure about what to cover or are struggling with organizing your presentation, don’t overthink it. If you have 30 minutes to speak, don’t use 36 slides. Grunder advises making three points and using 12 to 16 slides and telling three good stories to go with your points.
“You got to know your audience,” Grunder says. “One commonality is no matter if you’re 16, 21, 27 or 67, nobody wants to listen to someone just read slides.”
His preferred presentation format is to make a point, tell a story, recap that point and then bridge to the next point.
“You may think it’s only a half-hour presentation, but you’ve got to prepare for that,” Grunder says. “The best structure on any presentation is to tell your audience what you’re going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you told them.”
It is important to be honest, relatable and humble.
“People’s ears and eyes perk up when you talk about your failures more than bragging about how successful you are,” Grunder says. “I know I’m very successful, but I have screwed up more stuff than probably just about any landscaper in America has, and I’m not afraid to talk about it. I know I’m good, but I also know I have a lot to learn and I know that people can learn from my mistakes and hopefully not repeat them.”
Teddy Russell, CEO of Russell Landscape Group, based in Sugar Hill, Georgia, says some of the topics students respond the most to when he is presenting are the stability and pandemic proof nature of the industry and the ability to be creative and build relationships with people who truly care.
“Speak on the industry and how it’s evolving,” Russell says. “Technology and work-life balance. (Provide a) clear picture of what career progression looks like. Try to get them to lean into a culture they want to be a part of.”
Chris Joyce, The Joyce Companies, based in Marstons Mills, Massachusetts, says when he talks about his experience and journey in building a business, that is when students are most interested. Grunder advises being mindful of telling relatable stories.
“People don’t remember facts, they remember stories,” Grunder says. “Be mindful of your stories. Tell impactful stories.”