On the fifth floor of OISE, in a large room full of wheely-chairs and a whole wall of windows, the U of T Public Speaking Club comes together. Every Friday from 3-5pm the club holds its general meeting, an open session for newcomers and regular members. Each meeting the club explores a new theme of public speaking, and last Friday the theme was making mistakes.
This was my first time at UTPS. I heard about it online before the break and made a mental note to check it out. As it turns out, the club is still pretty new. The president, Jeff Cui, created the club to give students a comfortable, welcoming space to practice the art of public speaking, a skill that Jeff, and the whole UTPS exec team, considers valuable in many ways.
Before the meeting began, I got to speak with Llyvell Gomes, the Vice-President, who told me more about the club’s real goal. It’s all about creating a warm, friendly environment, he said, where students from all disciplines and experience levels can come together and practice some vocal self-expression. Whether you’re working on speaking more in class and tutorial, or practicing the speech you’ve written for your brother’s wedding, UTPS is here to help and encourage you.
The club is all about active involvement. Yes, they want everyone to be comfortable, but they also want to push limits and move beyond comfort zones. Basically, public speaking is a fear. For most people, at least. UTPS recognizes that, and they want to overcome it.
We began with some vocal warm-ups. We had to strike a ‘power’ pose and shout out our name. They said sometimes they sing a song, anything to liven the pulse. Then we broke off into smaller groups of themed exercises.
The first exercise was to stand up in your group and talk about what you look forward to on your way home. While you were talking, however, you had to pick a moment to stop. You had to stand in silence. You had to feel your face redden and your hands tingle, as you look into the eyes of your audience. Then, once you’d basked in the awkward pressure and silence of your ‘mistake’, you got to sit down and the next person went.
The next exercise was to do something embarrassing before you start talking. I did a silly little dance. Someone else did an impersonation of Russell Peters. Another person sang She Bangs, William Hung style.
It was weird, it was silly, but it was a lot of fun. Everyone was laughing, and the environment was very welcoming and supportive. No one in the club is a professional. Some are more comfortable, more experienced, but all levels and perspectives are welcomed and appreciated.
The meeting ended with an opportunity for anyone to come up to the front and speak. I stayed in my seat. Maybe next time. I’m certainly glad that a club like UTPS exists at U of T (a little late for me), and I’d highly recommend it to every single person in the world.
‘Til next time, stay diamond U of T