Wednesday, February 23, 2022
Students collaborate with each other during the VOL workshop
The Buccino Leadership Institute’s Voice of Leadership (VOL) held the first of its series of public speaking workshops. While the initiative's usual activities are exclusive to the Buccino Institute, the group, led by junior Jaruwat Maendl, is beginning to expand its activities to include the University as a whole. Maendl founded the VOL initiative after being selected to lead his sophomore year IDT and has been looking forward to providing Seton Hall students with a space to practice their public speaking skills in a low-stakes and friendly environment. He, alongside e-board members John LaFrance, Cassandra Mirarchi, and Olivia Ransbottom, began leading a group of Buccino students in biweekly meetings where each student holds a rotating role to practice their speech. The team has been working to bring these opportunities to more students, and they are excited to begin offering workshops this semester.
This first event focused on improving students' persuasive speaking abilities and featured student guest speaker Megan Gawron, a third-year member of the Brownson Speech and Debate Team and a quarterfinalist in Persuasion at American Forensics Association National Speech Tournament and the National Forensic Association's National Tournament. In the current season, Gawron has received two 2nd place finishes, qualifying her once again for national competition. Having worked with the VOL during the IDT process, Gawron is also familiar with its mission to improve students' public speaking abilities, and gladly shared her expertise with students and provided tips on how to craft a persuasive speech.
During the workshop, Gawron showed students one of the speeches she wrote for competition to walk them through her writing process and explained the rhetorical devices she uses. A common misconception is that persuasive speaking has the primary goal of convincing the audience that you are correct. However, Gawron informed students, that public speaking's true purpose is to convince your audience of a problem and incite them to some action. She described the importance of using ethos, pathos, and logos, and detailed how to best apply them in different sections of a speech as transitions or to add credibility.
These skills are applicable both in competitive speech and in everyday life, as Gawron's advice included the physical aspect of speaking as well as the material itself. A piece of advice that resonated with the participants present at the workshop was to "speak from your stomach…give your audience easy steps to follow," and use hand gestures to reflect emotion or tone.
VOL Leader, Jaruwat Maendl, assists workshop participants with their speeches
After Gawron's speech, students were given an opportunity to apply her advice and receive feedback. The attendees were split into groups of two or three and assigned prompts where each student argued for a different side. These prompts included questions like: "Which chain restaurant would you like to see on campus?" and "Should public speaking be a required class at Seton Hall?" Participants then split into groups of six to present their arguments and were given feedback by Gawron, Maendl, and John LaFrance, the VOL's Workshop Coordinator.
This interactive portion of the workshop was inspired by the VOL's typical meeting style, specifically a segment called Off-the-Cuff, where students are given prompts and then give a one-to-two-minute impromptu speech. A core principle of Maendl's VOL is to emphasize how consistent practice is the best way to improve one's public speaking skills. Therefore, this type of interactive component is vital in the VOL’s regular meetings and workshops. Through these exercises and the constructive feedback from experienced speakers, students can become more adept at public speaking, a skill many do not refine until later in their careers.
The VOL hopes to continue providing public speaking resources through these workshops and is planning to expand its membership next year to welcome all Seton Hall students. The initiative also plans to host one more public speaking workshop this semester, which will be on April 5. The VOL hopes these offerings can help make more students comfortable with public speaking, and in doing so, prepare them to be better leaders in their future careers.