• Mark Efinger

Can We Talk?

What makes ISCA an Academy? Well, I am glad you asked. The Interview Skill Coaching Academy is a collection of ideas used to train our students in various forms of self-expression, and oral presentation. Yes, interview training is our most consequential format, but we also teach and coach the ability to speak persuasively in multiple settings or formats. Our recently added tab on the ISCA website includes small-group online classes in Public Speaking & Debate, Dramatic Literature, and Accent Reduction classes. While our courses in US Colonial History, Digital Photography, Creative Writing and Critical Writing at first glance appear less oral in nature, our online classes are story driven and created to encourage and teach the art of classroom discussion, which is so important in today’s American classrooms. You will be asked to present your thoughts orally, and even the analytical writing is brought to life using the notion of narratives.

To speak persuasively in multiple settings is perhaps the most important skill leading to personal success. This principal guided the founding of ISCA. Throughout the world schools are not set up to teach and practice this critical skill. American schools seem to know the importance of this skill, and generally include “Classroom Participation” as a graded criteria, but little training or practice speaking effectively is formally included in the more subject based curricula. Requiring students to make Power-Point Presentations, a growing trend, serves only as a false sense of accomplishment. This is not an effective mechanism to teach compelling speech. Generally, these presentations include visuals and some creative layout, but the presentations themselves usually bore their audiences senseless as the presenter (whether teacher or student) reads the text in a monotonic drone, while most of the class nods off or worries about the slides in their own PPT. The focus of an effective oral presentation should be the dynamic speaker, not the slides.

If you want to be successful in life, learn to present powerfully. When you speak – persuade; when you converse – compel; and when you step to the podium - excite your audience with your ideas. Oratory was once a skill taught in the Greek gymnasiums. Public speaking is a scary and often neglected elective in most colleges. But in most of those classes’ students spend more time listening to others who do not know how to speak, than they do practicing the skills being taught. The great digital demise of discourse also plagues today’s students, who often sit side by side texting each other rather than speaking. We hear reports of critical conversations happening through messages. We might understand the personal detachment in sending a text to break up a high school romance. But divorce? Or even worse, marriage proposals and requests for a raise? It is no wonder that those who can effectively make oral presentations will stand out as these trends continue.

Does the idea of making a presentation to a large audience cause you to cringe? When the teacher asks a rhetorical question, do you feel yourself sinking in your chair? Do you tend to look down or away so as not to attract attention, while the teacher looks for someone to call on? When your boss’s boss walks into your workplace and asks, “What do you do here?” do you shrink enigmatically and defer, or are you ready to rise to the opportunity and present a simple and compelling theme that guides the role you play in the company’s success. If you are an effective speaker by nature, if you have the habit of crisp oral communication, you will impress people around you all the time, and your life will be more successful.