Public Speaking Workshops and Speech Competition

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By Christina Carrington, YES Abroad PY2017-2018, Macedonia

Molly and I were so thankful to join our school community at Josip Broz Tito Gimnazija. The students in our class welcomed us with open arms and our teachers, especially our coordinator Gordiana, were always there to support us. After we got used to the school system, Molly and I began getting involved in our classes beyond just attending class. We decided to get involved from teaching math, theory of knowledge, English, geography, and visual arts classes to organizing a skype call with another YES student in Indonesia. We even discussed our experiences applying to US colleges and created a guide to submitting a stellar application. This was all fun, but Molly and I wanted to make a greater impact on the school. We approached Gordiana and naturally, because of all the presentations we do at the school, we decided to do something about public speaking. But what? Gordiana suggested the idea of public speaking seminars and at the end holding a speech competition so the students could apply the information they learned from us. Molly and I were immediately on board with the idea.

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Molly and I spent a lot of time doing research by reading teaching manuals and watching ted talks about creating speeches. We even hung posters around the school and went to every class to announce the workshops. I enjoyed not just working together with Molly to plan the presentations but also getting to spend more time with my friend. Even though the goal of this project was to help the students, Molly and I grew not only in our problem solving and teaching skills but also in our friendship.

After all the work, we created a series of three workshops: tips for delivering an effective presentation and reducing anxiety about public speaking; how to effectively use visuals and create an engaging slideshow; and using organization and persuasive techniques, ethos; pathos; and logos, in a speech. We spread the workshops out with one every week. I was nervous for the first one, but I was ecstatic when I saw the student turn out. Students not just from our IB class but from other classes in the school had come to listen to us, and in total we had about 30 students. Our coordinator Vesna even came to cheer us on.

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While keeping the workshops educational, we also had some laughs and tried to give public speaking tips the students hadn’t heard. For example, we read a study about how standing in a position of power, such as a wonder woman pose, increases the release of confidence hormones. In an experiment, those who stood in a power pose before an interview, versus those who didn’t, were significantly more likely to be hired. So, we had the students stand up and imitate a wonder woman pose. We recommended they do it before speaking publicly to increase their confidence and improve their delivery.

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Molly and I had a lot of fun with these seminars. But, then came time for the competition. Don’t get me wrong, I was very excited to hear the student’s speeches, but I was also worried. I was afraid that students would not want to sign up for the competition either because of their fear of public speaking or not having time to make a speech with the loads of homework they have. However, I was pleasantly surprised. We had 15 students sign up and each one did great. The speeches were so good that the time flew as Molly and I listen and judged each one. We gave the students the freedom to choose their own topic, which made it even more interesting for us to hear the presentations. Each student chose a topic they were passionate about and it really showed.

In the end we had the award ceremony with the best speeches, one pair and one individual presentation, winning prizes. We had support from Shalom Konstantino at the Public Affairs Sector of the US Embassy who generously donated prizes. We then gave out certificates we made ourselves, with the help of Vesna, to all the participants. I was not only happy to help the students at Josip Broz, but also proud of all those who made amazing speeches.