…I looked around the square hall room. There were about a hundred people inside it, a hundred pairs of eyes fixed straight at me. I felt sick. Although the air conditioner was on its full mood, I was sweating hard. A few moments of pause before beginning the speech felt like an eternity: the judges fidgeted their pens impatiently, my teammates showed me thumbs up, and the friendly faces of the rival participants seemed sarcastic and jeering. I took a deep breath, smiled at the audience, and began: “Honorable judges and respected audience, I wish you all a very good evening…”
Although miraculously I did win the 1st runner-up prize in the inter-college Public speaking competition organized by the English department of AIUB, it didn’t really shoo away my fears of speaking in public. The idea of speaking in front of a hall full of scary spectators still haunted me more than my worst nightmares. So what could be better than a generous grooming on these frightening fields by a “professional”? Action: Speakers’ Circle 2013, a training workshop on Public speaking destined on creating better Actioneers with good speaking abilities, was a brilliant opportunity for this. Despite the weather forecast whining about chances of a thunderstorm, the training Action on a warm, sunny 19th April kicked off around 02.30 pm at FREPD Auditorium in Dhaka University campus. Our instructor Mabroor Wassey bhaiya, an EEE graduate from IUT, entered the room with a big smile on his face. After a brief introduction of all the 25 participants, the session began with a surprising task. We had to tell about our skills in communication and speaking while Mabroor bhaiya jotted it down on a board. The session went on with frequent questionings from the participants while he explained how these skills can be nurtured and applied in a speech for the best impact on overall presentation.
After seeing a few PowerPoint slides on what speechmaking is all about, we moved on to our fears and weaknesses in speaking which were written on the board too. A few of the problems were having stage fright, being stuck in the middle of a speech, fear of being laughed at etc. Mabroor bhaiya showed us a survey which indicated that speaking in public is what most people are afraid of, even more than death itself!
One of the most amazing things about the session was that whenever a question popped out inside our heads, we asked it immediately without any hesitation. With Mabroor bhaiya cracking up hilarious jokes every now and then, the whole thing was more like a lively group chat than a formal meeting. Everyone laughed, learned and smiled, all the time!
After the prayer break, we formed two groups and discussed how we could solve our own fears and problems with our skills written on the board. Once the skills were matched with the problems, a representative from each group explained how the skills can solve a problem while the other group worked out better and alternative ways of solving it.
During the final phases of the session, Mabroor bhaiya told us about assessing the audience, using body language and eye contact, getting the best preparation, visualizing success, the do’s and don’ts and a lot of other things, all of which will help us build up a successful speech. Focusing on the common problem of stage fright, he advised us to turn that nervousness into a powerful, positive energy for an amazing and mesmerizing speaking ability.
The ending around 06.30 pm was short and simple. We watched a video of President Obama delivering one of his famous speeches before lining up for a group photo. The smiles on the faces of the participants were enough to tell what a fantastic and amazing workshop it had been. It might not have turned us into Martin Luther Kings instantly, but it surely helped us to have a great experience and a clear view of that exciting and competitive world of Public speaking. And would I just love to borrow the time machine of Mr. H. G. Wells to get back to that day one more time? Yes, of course I would!