Mentor Of The Week: Meet Oana!

The one skill that can change children’s lives: Pubic speaking.

Florinel: Hey! I’m Florinel. I feel a bit shy. And you?

Oana: My name is Oana and… by the way… as a child, I was very shy too.

At 2030, WHEN i GROW UP I will show you how to “Learn To Speak So They Listen”.

Florinel: So you get what I’m feeling?

Oana: Ohh yes! I have been there too. It’s ok to feel shy. And don’t worry. You are safe here. I’m gonna teach you how change that “i’m shy” story so you can always use it to your advantage.

Florinel: Wow!! Great! Tell me more about your journey. Please.

Oana: As a child, it was not easy for me to make friends or to take the initiative to talk in class.

Later in life, I often missed opportunities to speak up, in spite of my burning
desire to express my thoughts, ideas, and feelings.

It all changed in 2015 when, at a networking event, a woman introduced
me to an organization called Toastmasters. I joined a club (Green
Heart) in which members practice public speaking in a safe
environment. It was the beginning of an adventure.

In 2016 I participated in a contest for humorous speeches and made my way up 3
levels in an international competition gathering all the clubs in
Benelux. I spoke in front of 150 people and I finally stepped out of
my shell. The same year, I tried my hand at stand-up comedy and that
lead me to perform in front of bigger audiences.
Within the Toastmaster organization, I continued improving my skills,
completing the Competent Communicator and Competent Leader, holding
workshops on Storytelling and Humour and becoming a club President.

Florinel: I see. Why do you think it is important to teach nowadays’ children how to speak in public?

Oana: Well, as a child and later as an adult, I was often confronted with the fear of speaking (in public as such or in front of a small group of
people). I was terrified before oral examinations at school or when I simply had to take the initiative and go to talk to teachers or
colleagues. I had often insomnia before interviews, important meetings or presentations. It was only when I started practicing in a safe,
supportive group and I learned a few techniques that I was able to gain the needed confidence to speak in front of larger audiences and
express myself freely.

During my experience, I learned that in order to pass a message, confidence is important but not enough. To juggle with words we need
first to know how to listen, how to connect, we need good timing and structure.

Our voice is like an instrument that will carry that message and we need to learn how to use it, but we also speak with our
bodies and our emotions.

All these need time and practice.

Florinel: Can’t wait to be there. What will the kids learn at the Saturday workshop?

Oana: At the end of the workshops the children will have learned to:

  • Introduce themselves with confidence
  • Engage with other children and communicate freely, assertively and respectfully about a concept or an idea
  • Structure and tell a short story in front of the group
  • Give constructive feedback
  • Even much more will we practice. Did you know that ‘feedback’ is important for learning and getting out of the shell? However giving feedback is an art. So, the participants will also learn to use empathy and show others that they as well, have difficulties with public speaking. I will be there to guide them. So, I will also tell them what I do to overcome my difficulties with public speaking (e.g. “When I have to give a presentation and I’m stressed in front of colleagues, I take a pause and remind myself to breathe properly, mindfully for a few seconds.”).
  • Finally, let’s not forget that communication is a two ways process. People are more willing to speak freely when they feel listened to. So, at the end of the workshop, the kids we’ll have understood ‘active listening’ and how to engage in conversations with attention and kindness. Let’s hope they will then do it at home too.

Florinel: Oana, how can parents teach kids to speak so others want to listen?

Oana: You know, kids can’t be what they can’t see. So, we, adults, have to first find a way to lead by example. We have to find a way to teach children to value progress over perfection – exactly what you value here, at 2030, WHEN i GROW UP, as well.

Children who do not have the courage to speak in public are not always shy. Sometimes they want to be perfect, especially when a parent, a teacher or a sibling is present. It is important that we encourage progress and cooperation rather than competition and that we praise the process rather than the talents. For instance, instead of telling the child: “Oh, you were the best actor!” rather saying: “Oh, all that work you put in for repeating for the school play really paid off! You were shining up there!” This goes back to the growth mindset, which is much valued at 2030, WHEN i GROW UP.

On the other hand, fear of public speaking is very common. Sometimes children, the same as adults, simply don’t trust themselves. What could actually help in these cases is having a supportive group where they could practice, where they don’t feel judged, a safe place where they receive constructive feedback.

Florinel: One more thing: is it true that we can speak well if we can deliver the message with our heart?

Oana: Yes, Florinel. True indeed. If we can remember to always speak from the heart, we are half way there. The challenge is to continue speaking with and from our heart wherever we go. As we grow older we learn to filter our messages, because we are afraid of judgement. But if we can learn to communicate assertively, politely, confidently and harmoniously, then we can be proud of our authenticity and speak from the heart fearlessly. This experience is truly fulfilling. Happy to meet you on the 03rd of November.

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