Creating an impact has never been easy particularly in present times when everything is so in-your-face with no room left for imagination. One has to go an extra mile to stand out amidst the crowd and leave a mark on others, either with their words or their actions. However, when it comes to expressing oneself, this is one area where a lot of young people struggle either because of lack of confidence or because they just don’t know what to say.
According to Shireen Naqvi, master trainer-consultant and founding director at School Of Leadership, “The youth of Pakistan has immense talent, yet lacks confidence.”
IMPACT – a six-day programme offered by School Of Leadership – focuses on empowering individuals aged between 18 and 30 with public speaking skills and confidence to face an audience. “Impact is a six-day programme that will enable you to learn public speaking skills and, more importantly, help you learn how to effectively share your message,” Naqvi adds.
The programme recently took place in Lahore followed by one Karachi that I had a chance of attending. As the outline suggests, it is designed to help participants overcome their fear of public speaking; realize the source of their fear through activities, simulations, practice sessions and reflections, and mentoring from facilitators; become a confident speaker and make themselves heard; face audience without hesitation; learn the art of body language, tonality, and gestures; and instil leadership qualities.
Going by the purpose behind IMPACT, as the organizers claim, one has to acknowledge that it does cater to all these areas and works around developing basic public speaking skills in participants. The program definitely does not make you a public speaker in six days but it helps introduce the necessary ingredients that may lead you to becoming one of the best in the business.
It opened with an introductory session with lead trainer and consultant Waqar Ali who facilitated attendees on the first two days. The first day was dedicated to setting the tone for the programme that comprised discussions, activities and other interactive sessions. Day Two was all about building confidence and the necessary steps needed to be taken to express one’s thoughts.
“Fear and confidence go hand in hand,” stresses Waqar, who is a firm believer that there are instances where one needs confidence while there are others that require fear. Or else, one will not be able to differentiate between right and wrong. “Don’t run towards eliminating your fear; run towards enhancing your confidence,” added Waqar, insisting that it all depends on “utility”.
The discussion veered towards Gordon’s ladder of competence that comprises four stages of competence: unconscious incompetence, conscious incompetence, conscious competence and unconscious competence. It also incorporated how significant transactional analysis is in finding out one’s ego state based on their understanding of oneself and others.
The day included activities aimed at breaking the ice and making everyone speak. We were assigned to select an object of our choice from our surrounding and speak to him, not just in isolation but in front of everyone. This actually helped many participants gather the courage to “speak up”, whether they made sense or not. Final task to boost participants’ confidence was to speak on a given topic in front of the audience who gave their feedbacks alongside the trainer.
Speaking to Us Magazine on the sidelines of the event, Waqar shared that for him the major focus in Impact is to make people vulnerable on the stage.
He said, “My focus is to tell them that they are okay and give them the confidence that they can go out and practise whatever they want to without even thinking what the world will think about them. That’s my perspective on Impact but the programme also takes into account the technical aspects of public speaking as well including body language, voice, content, etc.
“Listening and speaking are two import elements we teach at Impact. We also help them to be able to express themselves or else they will take everything to their graveyard. Expression is very important, so is self-talk. Before one speaks to the audience, it is essential that he or she speaks to themselves.”
Given what Waqar has to say about the programme and that public speaking is not only about having the confidence to speak, let’s move on to other key components of public speaking. It is the body language, posture, tone, voice, pitch and everything a speaker conveys to his audience beyond words. The third day was dedicated to this and was conducted by Maalik Khaskhely, master trainer and consultant at School of Leadership. He was one of participants’ favourite trainers during the programme who brought in the energy and all the pleasant vibes. He conveyed the significance of body language and surrounding elements in an engaging manner.
Day Four centered around the art of storytelling in a manner that keeps the audiences interested till the end. The structure that needs to be followed is very important to be able to have your audience with you rather then losing them in between. The session conducted by lead trainer Arsal Fahim was enlightening and informative but it wasn’t too interesting because participants found it more theoretical than practical. Nonetheless, the crux was conveyed well and attendees did share their own struggle with storytelling with a demonstration. A major shift by now was from the speaker to the audience, understanding how important it is to find a common ground with the audience.
The second last day was dedicated to the “idea” that needs to be imparted while one is onstage. The idea and how it comes into being is a major step before one moves on to the content and execution. It is the idea that one builds on and takes ahead, or else the speaker as well as listeners will be lost midway.
Danish Parvez, stressed on being clear about the idea to be able to convey something that is worth listening to. With the help of videos, interaction, activities and other engagements, he emphasized on some key elements to be kept in mind. The first thing is to focus on one major idea, have something for listeners, building the idea with a familiar concept and making it worth sharing with others.
After the session, we spoke to Danish about the role an idea plays in the process of public speaking. He noted, “We have analyzed and observed that it is very difficult for a vast chunk of our youth to communicate even the simplest of ideas to others around them, including their friends and family members. The reason why we include a session on this particular aspect of public speaking is to make sure that they understand what constitutes the idea and what brings in the authenticity in that idea so that they are able to communicate it to others. We also try to make participants understand that how to move beyond themselves and think of the world, issues and people around them; they will find a lot of ideas there. All in all, the programme is meant to encourage people to speak confidently in public.”
The final day was about assessment of participants where they gave presentations on the basis of whatever they learnt during the five days. They were assessed in the presence of corporate trainers and public speakers and given honest feedbacks so that they improve themselves and be better at it!
We asked some participants about how the program – IMPACT – helped them become better at speaking in public with confidence and conviction and whether it did any good or not. Most of them agreed that they were able to get out of their comfort zones and at least open up about their fear of speaking in front of a large number of people and stage fright. They shared that they have come a few step ahead and plan to keep going with all the tools and techniques they learnt during the six-day program.
Here is what they have to say about IMPACT:
- Samran Rafique
- Muhammad Junaid Khan
- Hrithik Thakur
- Muhammad Badar