By Yara al Wazir
There’s a fairly dangerous wave sweeping the Middle East and sadly the weather forecasts are skipping it: I’m talking about the wave of lectures and talks about entrepreneurship, leadership, and motivation with little to no follow up or support on actually achieving the messages these lectures call for. Young Arabs don’t need talks to inspire them; they need a job and an opportunity to inspire everyone else.
The values behind these talks are in fact incredible: they make the audience think. However, convincing an audience that they can think, without providing a forum for action is like preaching to the converted. The talks are growing in strength, but perhaps need to be shaped differently. As well as helping young people find a forum for their actions, here’s what else they should do.
Discuss, not inform
As far as audiences go, the ones at these talks are as broad as they get. The ideas are unique, special, and can be moulded in multiple ways. Sitting down and listening to a 45-minute talk on the keynote speaker’s life story, educational background, and CV won’t help me mould my ideas into actions. The 15-minute question and answer session that follows it does exactly that: questions and answers. I propose switching the playing field: provide a 45-minute discussion forum, preceded with a 15-minute introduction. If the audience is there to be inspired, let them inspire each other.
Evaluate different forms of success
The definition of success is relative. To some, it may be climbing up the ranks in a small enterprise, whereas for others, it may mean starting their own enterprise and watching it grow. A personal feeling I get when I attend these talks is the overwhelming belief that in order to be successful, one must independently run a start-up and watch it thrive.
To many, this idea is fruitful. While I am a huge advocate of entrepreneurship, the fact of the matter is that it’s simply not for everyone. Not everyone has the opportunity, the background, or the support (be it financial or emotional by the family and friends) to create a thriving start-up company. For that very reason, the definition of success must be up to the imagination of the audience.
The background of the attendees in the region is rich – different forms, different backgrounds, and different social beliefs. Why should a mother of two children who takes her daughter to these talks walk away feeling like her life accounts to nothing? Success is relative, and if I could change one thing about these talks, it is to ban using the word ‘success’ entirely.
Provide opportunities for action
Once all is said and done, the lecture is finished, and the 15-minute question session is over, the tendency is to pack up and leave. While some of the young attendees spend the rest of the night networking, the actual opportunities shared are rare.
By opportunities, I mean internships, one-on-one sessions, mentoring and guidance: an opportunity to act. It’s human nature to learn by action more than by listening, so please, give young Arabs an opportunity to inspire you. I promise you they won’t disappoint.