Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Speaking Up and Out

I started off my morning by waking up at eight thirty, which was relatively late, seeing as though my class starts exactly an hour later. I hurriedly freshened up and then practically raced out the door to the V-Dubb, which is not as long as a walk as people say it is. I wanted to have a waffle for breakfast - this time I carefully followed the directions and made a very good waffle! Breakfast was simply splendid.

After I ate, I went to class. Today's objective: the dreaded public speaking. I noticed many of the girls, including myself, cringed at the thought of public speaking. As I stated in my blog post about the Brown Brunch, public speaking is definitely not one of my favorite things to do.

Before we got into public speaking, we reviewed last night's reading. We read three short stories last night: the first was about Baby X, an experimental child whose gender was unknown and angered the Parents Association, an article about the statistical differences between males and females in society and the dystopia of "girls completely ruling a school", and the "Girls Bill of Rights", which gave several statistics about women in society. We then split into groups and discussed these readings. My group consisted of Kaylyn, Alli, and Cindy [Yip]. We talked about minorities in education and "Burn Books" within schools and how girls push each other away so much when they need each other the most. Three of us revealed that when we kept on picturing Baby X as a boy instead of a girl the entire story, which prompted Alli to talk about name-gender identity issues that society has.

After a brief class discussion about what the groups discussed, Kisa informed us that we would be getting a guest speaker: Jen Madden! Jen graduated from Brown University with a PhD and teaches public speaking.

The minute Jen entered the room, we all felt her positive attitude and energy. She quickly engaged us in a discussion where we listed things that can get in the way of a great public speech:

  • Nerves (which never truly go away)
  • Vocal non-fluencies (words such as "Um" and "Like") 
  • Lack of confidence and/or a passive tone 
  • Lack of passion
  • Mumbling
  • Looking at your paper the entire time and never making eye contact with the audience 
  • Poor dictation/enunciation 
  • Over-gesturization
  • Bad posture and/or body language
  • Wardrobe consciousness 
  • Ethics 
We then formulated two more lists: what makes people nervous, and what a good speech needs:

What makes people nervous:

  • Going blank during the speech
  • Humiliating oneself/being judged
  • Self consciousness
  • Being yourself
  • Being "too emotional"
  • If the audience is defensive 
  • Aggressive v. Assertive 
  • Lack of preparation
  • Non-verbal impact 
What makes a good speech:

  • Organization
  • Introduction
  • Conclusion
  • Syntax
  • Goal
  • Audience
  • Length 
  • Question and Answer 
  • Audience Involvement 
  • Hook
We then got into a circle and did a posture and hand movement exercise. Jen showed us good ways to position our backs and shoulders. We also learned more breathing techniques and practiced tongue twisters to practice before giving a speech, such as repeating:

  • Toy Boat 
  • Black Leather, Yellow Leather
  • The lips, the teeth, the tip of the tongue, the tip of the tongue, the lips, the teeth, annunciate, articulate, exaggerate, HMM. 
Trust me, it is much harder than it looks like.

Jen also gave good tips on how to answer questions during the Question and Answer section. She stated, "If you really don't know the answer, just be honest and say you don't know. Do NOT lie. An example of a bad question and answer session is if the Speaker says, for example, "I'm going to convince you to donate blood tomorrow!" Then the Audience will say, "Oh REALLY? Yeah, I don't think so." She said confrontational words such as "convince" will throw the audience off. While a person will never know what is going to come their way during the session, it's not good to lie. The correct terms to use are "I request, can you repeat/rephrase that question?"

Overall, the discussion and lecture was great. I'm glad we had the opportunity to work with someone as amazing as Jen.

After our lunch break, we were split up into three groups: one group was going to go back to our classroom and work with Kisa, the other group was going to work with Jenn in a separate classroom, and the third was going to work with Laura in another separate classroom. I was fortunate enough to be in the group that worked with Kisa. What was our exercise? IMPROMPTU SPEAKING!

To say the least, I was terrified. But at the same time, very excited. My group consisted of Rebecca, Kaylyn, Maddie, McKenzie, D'ara, and Ava. We all wrote down topics on a piece of paper and Kisa shook them around in a box. One by one, we would take a piece of paper, leave the room for a minute, and would use that one minute to organize a speech. Then we would go back in and present it to our group members, who would give us feedback and have a Question and Answer session with us once it was over.

This is what the people in our group gave speeches on:

  • Rebecca - sports 
  • Kaylyn - bullying 
  • Maddie - puberty pimples 
  • McKenzie - being healthy (mentally and physically)
  • D'ara - siblings 
  • Myself - female stereotypes 
I felt like we all did a good job preparing ourselves. My feedback was to not fidget and play with my hands so much, but I was praised for organizing my speech so well and giving good information. We had leftover time, so Kisa allowed myself and D'ara to give another speech:

  • D'ara - first day of school
  • Myself - pressure to have sex in high school
Thinking on the spot for my second topic was a lot harder, as I knew much more about female stereotypes, but my group-mates, Kisa, and I thought I did pretty well.

We were released about ten minutes early, so McKenzie and I went for a quick Starbucks then. I then returned to my dorm and took the opportunity to de-tox by listening to music, emailing my friends, uploading photos to my computer, and talking to Kaylyn.

After getting dinner, I headed back to my dorm to prepare for our evening session. The topic was diversity, and at first I thought we were going to sit in a big circle and talk about how diversity applies not just to society, but to our lives. It was so much more than that.

We played a grouping exercise where we stood in a straight line, closed our eyes, and had colored and/or stamped stickers put on foreheads. When we opened our eyes, we saw that others either had the same stamp as us or our stamp was different. We were told by Tiffany and Laura to "form a group." Without realizing at first that we could've just made one gigantic group, we all scurried together - without talking, which was the rule - to find out who had the same stamps as us. We ended up separating into three groups, with Kayla and Caroline without a group. We then realized how this grouping applies so much to society.

Then, we played a much more personal and emotional exercise. We stood in a circle, and then Tiffany and Laura read off questions to us. Those who applied to the question asked where to take a step forward, and to those that the question didn't where to stand in their place. The questions were at first easy questions, such as "Do you go to public school?" and "Have you been away from your families for this long?", but then turned into much more personal questions, such as "Have you ever questioned your sexuality?", "How many of you are on financial aid?" and "How many of you have felt not included due to your race?" It was a very emotional session, which emotionally drained me. While I did feel a closer connection to my classmates, I felt very insecure. I wanted to crawl into a ball and just rock myself back and forth. I consider myself to be personable, but it was hard to get personable with the girls. One thing I have to work on is being more open with people, as open as I may normally seem.

The third and last exercise was to stand by a sign in the room if you identified to the question being asked. Questions asked were prompts such as, "Do you feel like this puts you at a disadvantage?" and "What do you feel you most connect with out of these signs?" The written signs were:

  • Race
  • Age 
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Socio-economic status 
  • Nationality 
  • Religion 
  • Disablity 
Once again, a rather emotional game. But by the end of the session, while we all were much quieter, we did feel a better bond with one another.

Tomorrow is our ropes course, which should prove to be very exciting. I am excited for what it will bring and the bonding I will do with my classmates.

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