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ISDS and Straz Center partner to offer public speaking workshop to students

By Sadie Stetson

Students at Straz Workshop

TAMPA (May 22, 2018) -- "I never want you to give a speech again," Matthew Belopavlovich, theater department teacher of the Patel Conservatory at Straz Center for the Performing Arts, told a group of University of South Florida students at a recent public speaking workshop. "I want you to think of it as just a conversation."

The students, a mix of management and business analytics majors enrolled in the USF Muma College of Business's Information Systems and Decision Sciences Department, spent a day earlier this month at the Straz Center with members of the Patel Conservatory staff, learning about the importance of listening in conversation and public speaking.

They participated in a number of exercises that taught them how to read a room, improve speech articulation and develop a sense of effective body language.

"There are ways to get around trip-ups and inadequacies," Belopavlovich told the students who sought advice on how to overcome conversational issues such as nervousness, fluency and performance anxiety. Many of the exercises proved difficult for some of the students before they were coached on channeling nervous energy into supporting gestures and quick thinking.

Special attention was given to the soft skills that result in interviews that impress and students participated in interaction exercises to reinforce the importance of listening. Improvisational techniques to sharpen the ability to react and adjust conversational tones also were conducted.

Audrey Siegler, managing director at the Patel Conservatory, and Sarah Berland, an instructor there, stressed the importance of linking physical actions to voiced articulations to create effective verbal communications.

A brief introduction to acting included the Meisner technique, generally used by actors to improve instinctual responses to given situations. Students were paired off to repeat a set phrase back and forth, using the flow of the "conversation" to focus on the most suitable delivery of the phrase.

Suzanne Livesay, the Patel Conservatory's vice president of education, joined the group for some networking tips and tricks. She shared some personal advice, including one method of remembering names- repetition and connecting through more personal details. A mini-workshop devoted to art of the handshake also was part of the demonstration.

The ultimate goal for students was to develop confidence for a personal elevator pitch and by the end of the day, most students said they had improved their focus, delivery and presence when asked to share why they were an ideal hire in a single sentence.

Before leaving, one student shared what he gained. "I feel like I can make a connection with my audience much faster than I thought I could."

With such a successful initial outcome, the ISDS Department hopes to organize more events in partnership with the Straz Center in the future.