Life is never boring for us at BottomUp.
While there are always many exciting things on the go, one of our newest, that we are quite proud of, is the beginning of our Saturday Public Speaking classes.
For me, the morning of Saturday 4 August was my first time volunteering alongside BottomUp as part of the Public Speaking Workshop team, but it was already their second session [having started on the 9th of June]. Having focused on some initial general tips when speaking and looked at some of the themes that felt relevant and close to the group of students who attended, this follow-up session was about building on the story-telling aspects and helping the learners to find a foundational piece that they might build the rest of their speech from.
Bringing the schools together
Close to twenty young people representing the four local Cape Flats schools of Zeekoevlei, Lotus, Fairmount and Grassdale arrived for this second session and you could immediately tell from the buzz in the air that they meant business.
We met together in the gorgeous setting of the Parkwood Primary Tech Centre, that BottomUp was key to helping set up. As students arrived we did a brief welcome and then quickly had them sitting face to face in two long rows of chairs, wondering just what they had walked into.
The first activity was one that we called ‘Speed Chatting’ which I led the group in with the focus being a quick series of one minute conversations around topics that I would throw out. The idea of this was to get the learners chatting quickly and effortlessly without thinking too much about it.
We started with topics that didn’t need much thought such as “Talk about yourself” and “Tell us a little about your family”. After each person had spoken for a minute the person opposite them got to speak on the same topic for another minute. When they were finished, everyone on one side stood up and moved one chair to the right and the whole process repeated again.
As we moved a little deeper into the activity, so the topics got a little deeper and closer to home. The students were given a chance to speak for a minute on their school and community and towards the end, we invited them to speak about something that had been a negative experience for them.
This activity concluded with the final two minutes where each person was given one final minute to speak about an area of hope, either for themselves or for the country.
The Speed Chatting Session served a number of purposes, not least of which was to break the ice and give the learners and volunteer facilitators an opportunity to get to know each other better. But it was also an opportunity to get them speaking about things that were familiar to them to help build confidence as they started working on their public speaking topics. Lastly, it helped them to think about topics related to themselves and their communities instantly without giving them too much time to think about it. Thus bringing relevant themes and emotions to the fore.
Discovering the themes
While we are hoping that the Public Speaking Workshops will continue and build into an ongoing programme, we have also recognised the need for shorter-term goals. The first one we have in mind is the Public Speaking Festival we are working towards the end of October which BottomUp will be hosting and those who have attended the workshops will be speaking at.
The second session we went into spoke into this area as Ashley Visagie led the group into identifying a unifying theme or themes for us to build the Festival around. Ashley introduced the idea of the Festival and started by recapping some of the issues the learners had brought up at the previous session. Encouraging each participant to build on the previous idea someone had shared rather than introducing a brand new one. The theme of the speeches we are looking at for the Festival from what the learners had come up with in the previous session is Humans of the Cape Flats, but this exercise was to help the individuals pull out their own themes that related to the broader topic that they could speak on.
Introduction to Story-Telling
Next up was the exceptionally talented Thandi Gamedze to help equip the students with some basic tips on story-telling.
Thandi had been part of the first Public Speaking session and so was able to build on the previous tips the students had been given but also cater them more specifically to the story-telling focus.
She also showed part of a Bryan Stevenson TED talk titled, ‘We need to talk about an injustice.’ The idea was to use a good speech for the students to be able to identify some of the strengths of the story-telling they were watching. What made it work? What was easy to remember? What methods did he use to make the story compelling? And so on.
Tell me your story
After a short break, where the learners were able to grab a snack and a drink to replenish their energy, we divided into mixed groups of students and started working on individual stories which we hoped would become the framework for the Festival in October. They were given a few minutes to work on compiling a three-minute story based on the topic each one of them had chosen. Then got to present them to their small group.
Each group was then able to choose one person to share their story with the larger group and we reconvened and listened to five different stories that the learners shared with us. The students gave some critique after each one specifically trying to identify what was positive. The facilitators also gave some feedback which was helpful both for the person speaking and for the audience to being to understand more what giving a talk is all about.
Lastly, the learners were given some homework to work at before our next session together on the 25th of August. They were asked to take a photograph which would represent an aspect of their story and to conduct an interview with someone they know about the topic they were covering. They were invited to share these via the Whatsapp group we have going with the group to help encourage and inspire each other as they started working on their longer speeches for the festival.
To see so many students choose to come to an optional workshop on Public Speaking on a Saturday and show so much excitement and enthusiasm was a gift to each one of us who were there facilitating. We are so excited to see what will be produced on that evening in October. We only have two more official workshop times between now and then but we are viewing this festival as just one large step in an ongoing journey of helping harness the gift so many of these young people already possess.
Public Speaking, from the Bottom Up.