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.

Public Speaking

Today we got the opportunity to work with Jen Madden, who taught us how to improve all of our public speaking skills. She was very friendly and confident. She empowered everyone in the room and made us all feel very comfortable.

I now realize how important the little things a person does are important and can engage the audience in a positive or negative way. For example fidgeting or swaying back and forth can be distracting. Making eye contacts and some specific gestures can really intrigue the audience.

Later in the evening we had a discussion about diversity. We learned that we all had a lot in common. The discussion got very emotional. I feel much closer with the girls here.

"Toy Boats"

It has been half a week since I’ve started my Women and Leadership course. I’ve been staying up late due to homework and distractions, but the class is really active. I love how this class isn’t a “sit down for multiple hours and take notes” class, but rather, a 10-minute lecture paired with an activity in which we get out of our seats and interact with each other. Also, Kisa never told us to take notes, but the information we were taught in this program is so valuable that I take careful notes because I want to. That’s a huge “first” for me.

Today’s focus was communication. Our guest speaker, Jen, taught us many things about public speaking. She reminded us that pre-presentation nerves never go away, regardless of how experienced the presenter is. She also listed things to watch out for when presenting. These mannerisms include:
• “Umms”, “Uhhs,” and “Likes”
• Lack of confidence
• Lack of Passion
• Mumbling
• Upspeaking, when one sounds like they’re asking a question when they make a statement

Jen also taught us fun tongue twisters that would help a speaker enunciate a lot better (i.e: Toy boats). She advised for one to use tongue twisters to practice speaking before a speech, as doing so prevents the speaker from swallowing their words in front of their audience.

I have a notebook full of tips like these that I’m planning on using as soon as school comes back in the fall. These tips will help me to become a more comfortable leader and public speaker.

Exposed and Empowered

ComposeEdit HtmlToday I was excited to learn that Jen Madden, a public speaking instructor, was coming to our class to help us learn skills about being an effective communicator and persuader. We identified public speaking pitfalls, including nerves and confidence, tone and diction, eye contact and body language, and lack of preparedness and organization. She gave us advice as to how to keep the audience interested, how to be prepared for spontaneous questions, and how to persuade through ethos, logos, and pathos.

All of these things were very good to know, especially when we were asked after lunch to make a two minute impromptu speech about an unprepared topic. It was interesting to see how different people reacted to being put on the spot. It was also interesting to see the different levels of experience that people had in public speaking, and that even people with no experience were able to do an effective and impressive job. When it was finally my turn, I decided the best way for me to give a convincing speech was to be genuine and conversational. For the most part, this worked to my advantage, as people seemed interested and didn’t seem to question my credibility. However, I became aware of how much I used vocal non-fluencies such as the word “umm”. Afterwards, I received extremely constructive comments and criticism. And throughout the entire process, I felt extremely lucky to be able to have these opportunities to get guided practice in skills that I will be able to use throughout my life.

After class, I was able to discuss the idea for my potential action plan with Kisa. Although she was extremely supportive, she made sure that I understood all of the obstacles that I may encounter, and wanted me to make sure that I felt that I had the time and commitment to start from scratch and create such an ambitious project. It was very useful to get a different perspective on the project from somebody who is so knowledgeable in the area.

Finally in our workshop, we focused on the topic of diversity. One of the exercises that stood out to me the most was one in which we all stood in a circle, and then stepped inward if the comment that was read applied to us. This was one of the most terrifying, educational, and empowering experiences I have gone through. Many of the topics were extremely personal; and it was challenging to step forward to a presented statement, especially one that I would never admit on my own. Although I felt incredibly vulnerable, I challenged myself to be honest with myself and with those around me, and when I met that challenge I felt incredibly proud and empowered. It was also interesting to see who else stepped up when a statement was made. Seeing different people from different backgrounds step up for the same statement was very united. Furthermore, every assumption that I had subconsciously made was completely destroyed when I saw who stepped up and who did not. I could tell how powerful this was when we finished, and the entire group (many of whom seem to always be happy and talkative) was completely somber and silent.

Today was extremely empowering for me, because I felt that I was able to be completely honest with myself and others and still be completely accepted, if not more supported. Every day I feel that I am growing as a student and as a person, and am bonding more and more with the girls in my class. I am almost scared of how close we will be tomorrow, after the ropes course.

Day 9: Silent Secrets

This morning I woke up more tired than I had been previously here at Brown, which is ironic since I got the most sleep last night. I got dressed and headed out for breakfast. My daily routine was setting in but I still can’t navigate around campus. Afterward, I got a coffee at the nearby Starbucks.

During class, Jen Madden spoke to us about public speaking and the tricks of the trade. She taught us how to stand, where to look, and most importantly, what to do with those pesky “um” and “like” words. Jen was really energetic and was the definition of an excellent speaker. At lunch, I got another Starbucks coffee and went back to class a half hour early just to sit and relax. When class resumed, we practiced improv speeches. They were difficult but my listeners were supportive and kind.

We finished the speeches early so class ended a half hour early. I walked around, unsure of what to occupy my time with. A little while later we met for dinner in the dining hall. I realized when the woman was scanning our I.D.s to let us into the dining hall that our identification is required to get places that we wanted to go, such as the dining hall and the dorm. I took this as an extreme metaphor for life, meaning that our identification and who we are is important in this society to determine where you will go in life. It started raining once we got inside but stopped shortly after. We took that opportunity to run to CVS. We made it back just in time for the Diversity activity. Our class met and we went through many activities where the key rule is to stay silent. One involved colored stickers being placed on our foreheads so we couldn’t see the color. The only instruction was to get in a group without talking. We managed to get all of the colors together by cleverly using people’s clothes to identify color. When we were done we looked at the instructions again realizing that it said a group. They never said we had to get into groups based on color. We could’ve just gotten into one big group but we unconsciously put ourselves into groups based on similarities.

Before I knew it, the session was over and we were all in shock at how powerful those simple activities changed our perspectives. Since our dorm building is all female, we decided to call the lounge the “estrogen den”, and we met in there afterward to play cards. I played a few rounds then headed up to blog. I need to get more sleep tonight because tomorrow is the ropes course. I don’t look forward to it since it is pouring rain and the course is in a wooded area.

I came back from today with one simple concept in mind: that no matter how hard we try, categorizing and putting people into groups based on similarities like race or gender is second-nature. Especially to people like me who are completely accepting to all races, sexual orientations, social backgrounds, etc., seeing this happen in the sticker game frightened me into realizing that we are groomed by society to accept these views even if we don’t realize it.

Impromtu Speeches

The class today was very fun and interactive. Kisa brought in guest teacher Jen Maddin who specializes in public speaking. She taught the class how to present themselves (clothing, arm placement, eye contact, etc.) as well as some different types of speaking styles.

Our exercise for this lesson was to practice impromptu speeches. The class broke up into three seperate groups with a T.A. leading the activity. We picked a topic to prepare the speech on by choosing a slip of paper from a lotto. After the topic was selected, 60 seconds were alotted to the student to prepare a speech. It was very challenging, but amazingly fun. The topics I presented were, "Career vs. Family" and "Cyberbullying." This lesson really taught me the art of public speaking and this would definitely be a skill that I will be bringing back to my community in order to effectively express my ideas.

The cafeterias at the University are not as bad as people say. There are plenty of vegetarian options so that's great for the veggie eaters (including myself). The only annoying thing is the lack of proper ventilation in there-- It's always stuffy and the air is thick. Fortunately, you can eat all you want, three times a day!


Today we took a crash course in public speaking, taught by guest speaker Jen Madden. As you might know, public speaking is apparently the number one fear of a majority of Americans, with “death” coming in third. So obviously, it’s something that everyone can work on.

In the morning we brainstormed potential pitfalls you have to watch out for when giving a speech. She then discussed with us how to identify and minimize these problems. Today in class we learned how to stand and how to breathe. This may sound easy, it is very important and was actually quite difficult. Both posture and breathing are crucial parts of a good speech/presentation. Another important factor, especially for people of my generation, was minimizing vocal non-fluencies–the likes, umms, and uhs, that are so common in our daily speech. We also tried some fun tongue twisters to begin developing polished, poised speech. For example:

The lips, the teeth, the tip of the tongue

The tip of the tongue, the lips, the teeth

Enunciate, articulate, exaggerate, hmm.

We also discussed the mental aspects of giving a good speech, such as preparation and confidence. However, I can’t disclose all of our new speech techniques in public, because if I do, how will I ever persuade anyone to do what I want? :)

After lunch, I went with Cynthia, Josie, and four other classmates with one of our leader fellows, Laura, to practice impromptu speeches. For those who don’t know, an impromptu speech is when you are given a topic on the spot and have to make up a speech about it. Scary!

I really liked today’s class. It was extremely helpful with regards to public speaking. I got a lot of advice about how to improve with public speaking and I also got to get some hands-on practice.

I would like to take a moment to mention a topic that people should always consider when thinking about college but that might not always be the first thing to come to mind: homesickness. Surprisingly (or not), I'm not actually homesick much at all. However, several of the friends that I have made here have been missing their families, which reminded me to remember this factor when considering colleges.

Okay, maybe I lied a little. I don't miss my house or my family, but I do miss my friends. I love getting new experiences and making new friends and it's actually pretty fun to come to a new place. I like being with people who haven't known me since middle school. However, there are times when I find myself thinking that I should talk to one of my California friends when we cover a particular topic in class and then realize that unfortunately, I can't. While I'm on the topic of missing friends, I'd like to shout out to my friend Maddie Berger, who is also on the East Coast right now college touring. I'm hoping to make plans with her at some point so that she can meet all of my new friends, but I don't know if it will be possible.

Please, don't get the wrong impression. I am having a blast here in Providence, and it's my new friends that make me think of my old friends because I know that they would all get along so well and it makes me sad that they will probably never meet. Now that I have had my little rant, I'll get back to business.

Tonight we met in Solomon Hall to have a diversity workshop. Our mandatory evening workshops are held by our leader fellows, although tonight Kisa was sitting in and taking notes. We talked about identity issues such as gender, nationality, disabilities, race, religion, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status. The workshop was very intense and emotional, and it has given me a lot to think about. We finished on a lighter note, with reminders about our long day tomorrow as we travel out of town to do our ropes course.

I’m looking forward to the ropes course tomorrow. I think I’ll learn a lot about myself, as well as my methods for dealing with challenges. We have to wake up a lot earlier to get on the bus, but I don’t mind. I’m sure it will be absolutely worth it!

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