Speakathon Workshop Review

Fun, learning and thought-provoking! These are the words which define the experience student participants had at Speakathon, a three-day workshop held on July 16, 23 and 30, 2011. Speakathon was part of the Student Development Program initiated by Ms Namreen Akhter Syed in partnership with the Pakistan Society of Training and Development (PSTD). The purpose was to provide an avenue for students to be part of training sessions and workshops where they can learn those intricate details about public speaking and debating which one can’t find in a book. The essence of these workshops was to provide students with a practical experience of how to confidently speak in public, how to manage content for proper delivery and how to carry one’s body language which reflected confidence and poise of character.

Day 1

The first day of Speakathon, held on July 16, 2011, started off with Namreen Akhter (the lead course director)who conducted a few ice breaking and energizing activities which focused on “free spirited living”. Later in the day Mr. Faizan Ahmed who has been a theatrical actor and associated with a financial institution as a trainer spoke to the participants. On the first day, participants learned all about body language including eye contact, postures, gestures, hand movement, facial expressions and feet movement. The session also included how to speak for a longer duration of time, which depends on the stamina one has developed through proper training; using their voice effectively in front of a large audience. Mr. Faizan, a theatrical actor, used the element of amusement in his learning and made the participants feel all those various facial expressions and feelings, which when used at the right moment can make a difference in speeches and debates. His methods weren’t only entertaining but his vast knowledge on his subject created an environment where ‘having fun’ was the underlining objective.

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Day 2

On the second day of Speakathon, the participants had an assignment to complete. They were asked to imitate any character of their choice. Every participant came up with interesting imitations which were evaluated by the course director, Namreen Akhtar Syed as well as Mr. Qazi Tauseef uddin, who proved to be a great trainer and a mentor throughout the course of Speakathon. The objective of this exercise was to identify why eye contact and vocal intonations are important in public speaking and delivering speeches. A communication activity, called Taboo, was conducted by Namreen. The participants were divided in two groups. Here, the two teams were called Spades and Aces. This happened to be an interesting game which really brought out the communication skills of each participant. This is how the game was played. There were many chits of paper and on every chit a word was written with four hints written below them. A person from each team came forward and had to make his team guess the word without using the hints, that is, the hints were taboo words which cannot be spoken. Each member had one minute to make his team guess as many words as he can. Once the word was guessed, he was given a new word and this went till the one minute was over. The opponent team sat behind the person to see if he/she is using a taboo word or not. Using a taboo word immediately disqualified the word and a next word was given, without the addition in the points. Members from both teams came forward in alternate succession until all words were guessed. This activity helped in developing communication skills because they were more expressive, there was an immense amount of thinking, feelings and expressions were used to make guesses, impromptu stories were made to guess the word and everyone was involved in the game, therefore, team effort was at its highest.

Dr. Qazi Tauseef Uddin then discussed points and tips on how to create great content for effective speeches. Namreen used the brainstorming technique called Ideas Web, in which one selects the main topic and then associated ideas are written in branches and sub-branches.

Day 3

On day 3, Mr. Shaheryar Aman, a training manager by profession, started off the morning session, where he taught participants different speaking styles and conducted an interesting activity as well. The activity was quite simple in which each participant was given a minute to tell any memorable moment of his/her life. The participants (the audience) along with Mr. Shaheryar Aman then gave their feedback on how the speaker performed. This feedback was based on the speaker’s body language (eye contact, hand gestures, postures), use of space, content, content delivery and vocal modulation. The feedback helped the participants for they got a first-hand experience of what they are good at and which area needs improvement.

In the second session Ms. Maha Arshad, winner of Best Delegate award for her performance in the Disarmament and International Security committee at the Harvard World MUN (Model United Nations) took the stage and discussed various styles of debating and intricacies involved in it. Her detailed explanation of different debating styles helped the participants understand how a debate is done. She also explained different terminologies used in debating with examples.

At the end of day 3, a final activity was conducted by Namreen which happened to be a Parliamentary Debate Session. The judges were Mr. Adeel Shareef, GM PSTD; Ms. Huma Shaheryar, Training Manager in a multi-national corporation, Dr. Qazi Tauseef Uddin and Mr. Shaheryar Aman. The Parliamentary Debate Session was a first debating experience for many Speakathon participants which proved to be an exciting activity, aiding them in taking stance with what they opposed or supported, backed with relevant statements. The final evaluation of all the participants of the Speakathon was conducted based on their performance in the Parliamentary Debate.

The Speakathon came to an end with the Certificate Distribution Ceremony where Dr. Qazi Tauseef Uddin awarded certificates to the participants on the successful completion of the Speakathon Module. Adeel Shareef delivered the ending note of the program and presented a special award to Ms. Namreen Akhter Syed for her efforts and support as Course Director and a mentor throughout the course of Speakathon.

For all participants, this was an experience they would cherish for the rest of their lives for they got an opportunity to open up, break free from their fear of speaking in public, made new friends and most importantly, they certainly had fun. It is for a fact that if learning takes place in a fun environment, then it remains with one for the rest of their lives.

Written By Muhd. Omar Iftikhar

Muhammad Omar Iftikhar contributes to various publications as a freelancer and was a participant at Speakathon.