Classroom to client: Stay dynamic, remain approachable, and keep motivating

Mallory's graduation photoBy Mallory Jenkins, Project Specialist

During my graduate school orientation, a former professor approached me to offer a full-ride assistantship while I earned my master’s in public relations. The catch – I would need to teach Introduction to Public Speaking for undergraduate students at The University of Tennessee. A mere 45- second conversation later, and I eagerly committed to the role. Ironically, my senior year at UTK, I was awarded the Peyton Manning Public Speaking Award – an achievement I assumed would rest as a certificate in my memory box. Fast-forward three years later, I would put that accolade to the test.

Glancing at a collage of my graduate school experience, you would observe a pile of crisis communication case studies alongside lesson plans for managing speaking anxiety. My theoretical research was paired with the vocational experience of building and maintaining relationships in my classroom. Out of the nearly 50 students I taught during my time at UTK, each walked through the door with their own set of expectations and needs. 

I should also note, my teaching experience took place during 2020. Public speaking with a mask on, not to mention teaching with a mask on, is quite a feat. I was not only helping  students combat their public speaking skills but was also dealing with situational trepidation caused by a global pandemic. Despite added challenges, my classroom culture revolved around three main principles: stay dynamic, remain approachable and keep motivating. 

Teaching at the university resulted in a need for flexibility and adaptability, both for myself and my students. A willingness to persist amidst the health crisis was crucial for the success of each individual. Additionally, my students often remarked on my approachability – whether it was offering empathy as a fellow student or answering their frantic emails in a timely fashion – they noticed my accessibility. Ultimately, I found that the motivational culture I instilled in the classroom outranked any of my innovative curriculum design. Reminding each student of their resilience and innately unique life-narrative often made for the most effective speeches. Teaching brought out a tenacity for combatting challenges, and a fervor for aiding my students in exceeding their expectations.

After transitioning out of academia, it turns out that my three classroom principles transition well when working with Piper Communications’ clients. Three months after graduation, I joined the Piper team as Project Specialist, and I’ve been struck with the similarities between fine-tuning my teaching style to efficiently support each student and catering to the different values of each client. 

Our clients in the energy and technology spaces bring their own unique set of goals and expectations – to which we provide a tailored approach to deliver effective results. Though I’m no longer working off of an A-F grading scale, I have yet to shake my intent to measure my clients progress. I’ve transitioned from office hours with college students to Zoom webinars with the leading voices in the advanced energy agenda in Tennessee, but the same intent remains: developing objectives to produce effective communication strategies, regardless of the external hindrances they may face. 

My job has shifted from managing a classroom to mastering the client’s objectives, yet my transition to Piper has been bolstered by my unwavering intent to stay dynamic, remain approachable and motivate each client – once again aiming to exceed expectations.

Find out more about Mallory Jenkins, Piper Communications’ Project Specialist, here.