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Advertising professor connects industry experts for rapid-fire student questions

Oct 30, 2018

Posted in: News

By Adam Hamza, Communication Intern

Robertson School advertising professor Jessica Collins created a twist to the guest speaker series in her senior advertising class. She turned them into “ask me anything” sessions.

Collins, who has been an assistant professor in the School since the beginning of the fall semester, calls this series the Rapid-Fire Skype AMAs, based on the “ask me anything” format seen on websites like Reddit. She arranges for a speaker to connect with the class via Skype for 15 to 20 minutes, and students can ask as many questions as they can about the speaker’s career.

 

“A lot of times if you have a speaker coming to class it puts a lot of pressure on them to have something to present, and I hate that,” Collins said. “If it’s more like a Reddit AMA, it’s on the students to ask good questions.”

This format allows students to engage with speakers in a more meaningful way compared to traditional formats. She features people from different disciplines like creative directors, copywriters, and strategists as well as agencies and clients. Speakers are from companies like Arts & Letters, MullenLowe, Facebook, Google and Disney.

Students are given a lot of freedom regarding what questions they can ask. The only stipulation Collins set for them is they can’t ask questions that can be answered through the speaker’s LinkedIn profile or a Google search. This includes questions like “where did you go to school?” or “what’s your favorite project you’ve worked on?” The idea is to utilize the guest speaker’s time efficiently and to have the students ask meaningful questions.

“In an AMA you’re reaching out because you have an interest in the subject,” Collins said. “It puts pressure on students to come up with something interesting and something that sparks interest in themselves.”

Although students are supposed to ask rapid-fire questions, guests aren’t required to answer at the same speed. Good questions sometimes require lengthier answers. During the AMA last week with Kendal Beveridge, brand strategist at Facebook, students were only able to ask three questions during the 15-minute period. One student asked how Beveridge works with such a broad audience.

“No other company works in the billions of people,” Beveridge said. “My team tries to be ‘outside-in.’ We look at what’s going on in the world and how can these trends or groups be tapped?”

 

For her future classes, Collins wants to have more speakers in creative positions. She wants to ensure that her students have the chance to talk with people in the positions they’ll eventually apply for. That’s why she believes her spring semester students will enjoy the AMA with the Disney professional.

“I’m a strategy person. My strategy connections are miles and miles and miles long,” Collins said. “Whereas creativity, that’s just not my specialty. So, I think that I would love to get some more creatives. And it seems like these clients are more interesting to the students.”

Collins also wants her students to see how beneficial good connection are in advertising. She said that one of the biggest lessons she teaches is that “the advertising world is the size of a pea.” These speakers are all people Collins knows and are willing to speak to the class based on that good connection.

“That was a good lesson, I think, for my students to see that these are all people I know and that are hugely successful,” Collins said. “That’s when it hits them how obtainable a job like that is if you put hard work into it but also how small the industry is.”