Last Saturday I attended my third Girls Inc. speakers bureau training in collaboration with Butler University’s Speakers Lab. The experience changes each training with the composition of the group and offers different take-aways, or as we call them at Girls Inc., “ah-ha” moments. Our smaller group, three girls and one board member plus the Butler student tutors, provided a comfortable, open setting for reviewing the ups and downs, ins and outs of public speaking.
During the training the group compared good and bad speeches, examined the eight parts of a speech, flexed their creativity by drawing their “Girls Inc. experience,” and prepared speeches from those drawings. Yet, what struck me most was an activity led by Communications Professor Paul Sandin. In what seemed like a lesson from an introductory speech course, Professor Sandin described public speaking as: time-honored, for everyone, versatile, and competitive.
While these explanations weren’t new to me, within the context of a “girl-lens” the value of public speaking significantly increases. First, public speaking is time-honored, meaning it’s a tradition our society has respected for thousands of years. So the fact that women’s spoken word has not been recorded or revered in the same light as men’s, makes the skill even more important for girls to achieve. Second, public speaking is for everyone. No matter a girl’s background, education, or exposure to the craft, every girl can master public speaking and benefit from its influence. Third, public speaking is versatile and used in a myriad of situations. Thus, the better a public speaker a girl is, the more doors open and opportunities present themselves. Finally, public speaking is competitive. When a girl masters public speaking, she will perform better in college, job interviews, and professional presentations, all improving a girl’s future.
Not only do these elements affirm the place of public speaking in our culture, but they also affirm its relevance to our girls. When we encourage girls to speak up – speak up for themselves, for friends, for the bullied, for their rights – we could be encouraging a future Gettysburg Address.