written by Timothy Nakayama
Employers from disparate industries have time and time again arrived at the same conclusion regarding the fresh-faced, eager-eyed crops of fresh graduates who enter the working world year after year, in search of their first jobs: many have the smarts, the work ethics and the right attitude to make fabulous hires, but not as many have the communication and soft people skills that are so essential to thrive in today's increasingly competitive and globalised world. Those involved in the hiring process often lament the fact that while these capable graduates do have the skills and base knowledge to take on their new roles, they are not similarly equipped when it comes to communication and leadership, skills that employers prize just as much, if not more so.
Enter The Youth Leadership Program.
The Youth Leadership Program, or YLP for short, is an informal course in the vital arts of communication and leadership. The structure of the Youth Leadership course is set by Toastmasters International, a non-profit organization that helps people the world over develop their communication and leadership skills. 4 million people around the world have benefitted from Toastmasters clubs since 1924. Those who are over 18 are eligible to join any Toastmasters club throughout the world, whereupon they start with giving project speeches from a basic communication manual before moving on to more advanced communication manuals. The Youth Leadership Program, on the other hand, consists of a condensed version of the speech principles taught in the first few project speeches of the basic Toastmasters' communication manual with the addition of several key leadership concepts and principles. The YLP course has been specifically designed for youths between the ages of 11 to 18.
The Youth Leadership Program, in short, is a 2-day course that teaches youths the key principles and concepts of effective communication and leadership and maximises this learning by conducting the entire course in an interactive and hands-on manner that sees participants learning from both the course coordinators and their fellow participants, all within a friendly, positive and supportive environment.
Friendship Toastmasters Club is one of the most established Toastmasters Clubs in the Klang Valley, having been founded in 1998 with the goal of helping people of all ages and walks of life improve their communication and leadership skills. That lofty goal remains even today and that is why Friendship Toastmasters Club decided that it was the right time to conduct their first Youth Leadership Program.
Friendship Toastmasters Club's Youth Leadership Program took place on the 1st and 2nd of June, Saturday and Sunday respectively. The 2-day weekend-long course took place at Wiseed Meeting Center at Merchant Square in Tropicana, PJ. There were 19 participants in total.
The 2-day program was conducted and run by both Toastmasters members from Friendship Toastmasters Club and members from other Toastmasters clubs. The sessions were conducted by seasoned Toastmasters, who all have extensive experience in the art of public speaking and communication and who have also conducted Youth Leadership Program sessions previously.
Just like adults, some youths can be shy upon first meeting new people. Therefore, the meeting started with an Ice-Breaking session in order to put the youths at ease. The coordinators created a relaxed environment where all participants had the chance to introduce themselves and learn a few things about their fellow participants. This was followed by more interactive activity sessions, in which participants had to think on their feet as they worked together to solve various physical puzzles and challenges. By the time they returned to their seats, all the participants were smiling and chatting with each other, happy at having made new friends. The ice had been well and truly broken!
The structure of the YLP favours the learning by doing approach and the participants get their first taste of the hands-on way of learning with the Chairmanship session. In order to impart the lessons of good and fair leadership, the youths were divided into groups of five, whereupon the coordinators then appointed each member in the group to one of four positions: President, Vice-President, Secretary and Sergeant-At-Arms. The responsibilities of each of the position were then explained to the participants and they had to carry out these responsibilities over the 2-day course. Many of the participants were apprehensive at first, this being their first time taking up leadership roles, but after seeking further clarification (a trait of a good leader!), they were more than willing to launch into their roles with gusto!
The Competent Communication Sessions
For the rest of the first day and the first half of the second day, the participants learned various facets of public speaking. There are 6 sessions in total, with three being presented on Day One and the other three on Day Two.
The 6 sessions were (in order):
· Introduction to Public Speaking
· Impromptu Speaking
· Organizing Your Speech
· Gestures in Speaking
· Voice and Vocabulary
Each of these sessions helped the participants delve into the finer points of public speaking. The lesson plan for each session had a general structure - the coordinator teaches the basics of that particular area, and then the hands-on learning follows in the form of the participants utilizing what they have just learned in front of their fellow participants, who then give them immediate feedback. Some of the participants were a bit hesitant to give feedback to their peers, as it was something new to them, but after seeing how giving feedback can help both themselves and their peers improve, they took up the task with enthusiasm and aplomb.
The sessions were specifically designed to be very interactive in order to appeal to youths, which experienced Toastmasters have found is the best way to get youths interested in learning.
After all the lessons on effective communication and putting them into practice, the participants were ready for the one thing that they were all looking forward to since Day One - the speech contest.
Held at the end of Day Two, the speech contest was the culmination of the 2-day course, a way for the participants to gauge just how much progress they've made over the last two days. And truth be told, a lot of the participants were excited to test out their newly-acquired skills in a competitive environment!
To make it a memorable event, the coordinators asked the participants to invite their parents to the contest. As expected, most were a little shy about their parents seeing them in action, but just before the contest started, a handful of parents stepped in, eager to see whether enrolling their children into the 2-day course had paid off!
The improvement was, without a doubt, significant. Whereas before the youthful participants had been shy and hesitant to speak up in front of their peers, by the time the speech contest got fully into gear, they were up there on the stage, brimming with confidence, moving with grace and poise, and speaking passionately and evocatively about their thoughts and ideas. The topics were as varied as the speakers: some talked lovingly about their mother or father, others about their favourite TV shows. Then there were those who decided to tackle the heavier issues like racism, the power of positive thoughts and the price of beauty that women often have to pay even in today's society.
Just looking at the participants getting up on stage and delivering their very best was enough to make the YLP coordinators proud and some even shed a tear or two. How much more powerful the feeling must have been in all the parents who attended - all were seen leaving with wide smiles on their faces, clasping their son or daughter on the back with pride.
What parent wouldn't be proud of such an achievement?
|YLP Speech Contest Winners|
Perhaps no conclusion paints a better picture of just how much having the confidence to communicate effectively can change a young person's life than when the writer met with one of the contestants privately to tell her that, although her contest speech may have been disqualified due to going over the time limit, the judges had given her high marks for her well-crafted speech. She was speechless for a few seconds but then tears of happiness welled up in her eyes, her entire face seemed to glow and she beamed the brightest smile this writer has seen in a long, long time. She then said a hearty "Thank you!" and ran to her waiting father, full of smiles, tears of joy and a radiant confidence that shone even brighter than the hot afternoon sun.
More photos and information at https://www.facebook.com/Friendshipylp
Photos and videos contributed by Treasurer Lee Chen Choon.
Photos and videos contributed by Treasurer Lee Chen Choon.
Vice President of Public Relations 2013-14