Battle of the Bards
Battle of the Bards is a talent show in Waterloo, Ontario, that offers performers seven minutes of stage time to do pretty much anything they want (so long as it’s legal). It could be singing, dancing, martial arts, poetry, stand-up comedy, juggling…whatever. One time, somebody built a bookshelf for their act, and later in the show someone used the bookshelf. What I love about Bards is that every show is different, and all of them are a blast. The audiences are very friendly and supportive, making it a great place to try out new concepts and ideas.
I started performing at the shows in 2004, and took over as host and producer in 2005, when the creator moved away. That was a great opportunity, because it put me in a position to mentor and guide performers, helping them to express their creativity and understand how to play to an audience. I also encouraged people to try out ideas that weren’t traditionally seen as performance art—the trick is to take something that you enjoy doing, and figure out how to make it entertaining.
I hosted Bards as a standalone show at the Waterloo Community Arts Centre from 2005-2009, and revived it in 2012 as part of the Kitchener-Waterloo Little Theatre. It continues to run at KWLT, and I hope it never ends.
City of Waterloo – Waterloo Public Square
I volunteered at the Waterloo Public Square from the first year of its existence (2009) right up until I left Waterloo. Notably, I produced and hosted music concerts for the Food Bank of Waterloo Region, and managed the main stage for the Open Streets events. Similar to Battle of the Bards, the Public Square concerts gave me the opportunity to interact with and promote local musicians of all ages.
University of Waterloo – Student Recruitment
The most rewarding thing I got to do as a University of Waterloo employee was to deliver recruiting presentations at on-campus open houses. Beyond the fact that I enjoy public speaking, I got a great deal of satisfaction from helping high-school students to understand their post-secondary options; I always emphasized that I wanted to help them find their own path, whether that meant attending Waterloo or going elsewhere. Andt the risk of boasting, I’m really proud that people would often seek me out after presentations to express their gratitude and say that I was one of the best recruiters they had come across. Those were some of the most meaningful compliments I ever received.
Similarly, I remember attending the Ontario Universities’ Fair and being approached by students who wanted me to “sell them” on Waterloo Engineering. My blunt response was that if I had to convince them, then Waterloo probably wasn’t the right school for them (which led to further discussion). More students approached me later in the day, having heard from the first group that I was “the guy to talk to”. You don’t forget something like that.
So, why am I talking about this here? Well, I think my success as a recruiter is directly related to my hosting experience. Rather than just reading slides off of a screen, I view presentations as an opportunity to motivate and inspire an audience; I’m educating and entertaining at the same time. And to do that, I need to be able to read the room and connect with people. I like to say that I put a slide up on the screen and talk about how it makes me feel, rather than just reiterating what’s on it. I do my best to look across the entire audience, so that no one feels ignored, and I crack jokes to keep things light.
But most importantly, I believe in what I say. I wouldn’t have been an effective recruiter if I didn’t really think that Waterloo Engineering offered a fantastic learning environment, because my heart wouldn’t have been in it.
And isn’t passion one of the foundations for great performance?