Tutors host first-ever public speaking workshop

On May 5th and 12th, the College held the first two parts of the first-ever Speech Workshop, offering valuable public speaking skills to workshop attendees. Mike Pinkel ’03 is the head of the project for 2002–2003.

Pinkel organized the workshop as part of the Writing Workshop program and hopes to make it a permanent event. According to Pinkel, the idea of having a speech tutorial system available to students existed since his freshman year, but this is the first time that the goal actually reached fruition. He said that attendance at the first of the two workshops was encouraging and indicated the program’s potential.

The workshop is composed of two hour-long sessions. “I begin by talking about how to tailor your speech to your audience and your goals,” said Pinkel about the overall structure of these sessions. “From there, I discuss a quick formula for organizing a speech so that your audience can follow it easily. After that, we work on style points, where I emphasize using a few skills to express your natural passion for the subject. Finally, we look at rhetorical devices: specific patterns of phrasing that speakers have used over the years to add impact to their speeches.”

In addition to the group workshop component, the program also offers individual instruction in speech, taught by specific speech tutors. All of the speech tutors are also Writing Tutors. Similar to writing tutorial sessions, these sessions last half an hour and involve one-on-one interaction with the tutor. They can be set up by e-mailing Pinkel with at least one day advance notice.

During each session, the student explains the project to the tutor and delivers his or her presentation. “The tutor then focuses on improving the presentation, first making sure that it can be heard, second making sure that it is well organized, and third working on more general style points like variations of speed and volume, gestures, rhetorical devices and the like,” Pinkel said. “Our major technique is focused practice: asking the student to deliver a portion of the speech and working on just one additional technique until the student has mastered it. Then we move on to the next highest priority and so on.”

As the program develops, it may become more independent of the Writing Workshop and may begin to include some tutors who do not also serve as writing tutors. Pinkel hopes to expand the program, since he feels that the College does “surprisingly little to teach public speaking.” One exception is a Winter Study course on public speaking skills, from which Pinkel drew much of his speaking experience.

Pinkel also stressed the importance of public speaking as a necessary skill for success in life. “Many of the most important, persuasive events in life are spoken, not written,” he said. “Williams students need public speaking skills. . . My hope is that the Speech Workshop can fill that gap. The skills we give students will be useful in any career.”

Students interested in either the workshop aspect of the speech program or the one-on-one tutorial should contact Pinkel by email at 03mvp@williams.edu.

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