Education Session: Christopher Rea

Image of the Christopher over a field in spring bloom.

So what do you do when you are asked “So, what do you do?”

Have you ever let slip a valuable opportunity to make an incredible connection because you flubbed the answer to this common FAQ: “So, what do you do?”

When put on the spot, even experienced speakers (and perhaps some Toastmasters) stumble, mumble or rush through the answer to even that simplest of questions.

This opportunity to introduce and re-introduce ourselves can be surprisingly daunting (but extremely rewarding when nailed). And yet, in work and in social settings we miss the opportunity to make meaningful connections fearing it may trigger adverse judgment, indicate failure, and result in rejection. The subsequent regret can make us question our own self-worth.

Christopher Rea suggests that we often make the best impression when we relieve ourselves from the pressure of trying to impress. In this interactive session, Chris will share several principles and techniques for overcoming this everyday performance anxiety, and invite you to ask your fellow Toastmasters, “So …?”

What you will learn from Christopher's education session:

When introducing yourself, especially in a work context, try to make a connection by:

  1. Sharing something about “why” you do “what” you do
  2. Speaking in terms of the broader problem that motivates you, and how it connects to the particular case/industry/project you are involved in
  3. Allowing people the opportunity to share how they understand “what you do,” and validating the meaningfulness of their frames of reference


Christopher Rea is Professor of Asian Studies and former Director of the Centre for Chinese Research at UBC. A native of Berkeley, California, he earned a BA from Dartmouth College and a PhD from Columbia University, and has been a visiting fellow at Harvard University and at universities in Taiwan and Australia. His books include The Age of Irreverence: A New History of Laughter in China (2015), The Book of Swindles: Selections from a Late Ming Collection (2017, with Bruce Rusk), Chinese Film Classics, 1922-1949 (2021), and Where Research Begins: Choosing a Research Project That Matters to You (and the World) (2022, with Tom Mullaney), which has been translated into six languages. He was awarded a UBC Public Humanities Hub Outreach Award in 2022, a Killam Research Prize in 2023, and the Dean of Arts Mentorship Award in 2024. He is also a rabid fan of Monty Python.

Connect with Christopher