Presenting in a new language

Speakers of GBC helps international students perfect their public speaking skills

It was a snowy Monday afternoon when I first stepped in room 308 at St. James H building. There were eight other people there, already chatting to each other cheerfully. I wasn’t late, fortunately. I was just in time for the public speaking workshop to get started.

Nearly an hour into the session, the presentations became heated and almost turned into a debate. I was close to entering into it if the facilitators hadn’t stopped us and got back on the right track.

English isn’t the first language of the participants in the workshop, but that doesn’t temper the participation or enthusiasm in the room. These students are just taking their first steps in learning this language, and everyone is aiming at improvement. 

“I am a class rep and I do a presentation once a week. The problem I’m facing is to keep eye contact and the confidence,” said Xiaoxuan (Jason) Tian, a student at George Brown College (GBC) school of ESL (English as a Second Language).

“The club is where students go to practice and improve their presentation skills whether it’s for assignments or it’s just for general skill building,” said Trucy Lau, president of Speakers of GBC, the club that runs the workshops.

For every session, there’s a different topic. Most sessions focus on improving what students are missing in with regard to their presentation skills, which is often body language or eye contact. There are workshops on how to deliver a formal presentation while using technology as well.

The activities during a one-hour-and-a-half workshop include ice breakers, discussions, doing presentation and giving feedback. Members are often asked to give feedback to each other, and the workshop facilitators give them the final comment. 

A success story from the workshops thus far, includes Augusto Camilotti, an international business student at GBC. Camilotti started his studies in Toronto as an ESL student at George Brown. After nearly two months joining the public speaking workshops, he became the workshop facilitator and now he’s the vice-president of Speakers of GBC.

Camilotti said the progress that students make is his favourite part of the club. 

“The best part about the club is that you see students that come, they come really raw, with no experience, actually being afraid of doing presentation or speaking in front of people,” said Camilotti. “And you see, week by week, how they have developed and gotten better, more confident.”

When he first came to Canada, Camilotti said his English was nowhere near perfect. He knew about the club, but he wasn’t confident enough to join the workshops. He later got motivated by Lau and joined the club.

As a student success coach at the school of ESL, Camilotti also helps students with their English skills, either academically or non-academically. According to him, the ability to speak well contributes a lot to his job. 

“Public speaking is, I think, one of the most important skills that one should have,” said Camilotti. “And I’m pretty sure that students who went or are taking our club workshops, by the end of the day, they’re going to be a lot of steps ahead of others, whether to be prepared for an interview or for a real public speaking presentation.”

Aside from the weekly workshops, Speakers of GBC also holds an event called GBC Talks, which is an adapted version of TED Talks. The event will likely be held at the end of April. 

The workshop is run by the Speakers of GBC club, every Monday, at 1:30 p.m. and takes place at 341 King St. East.


Presenting in a new language