By Laura Lee (13A01C)
When one hears ‘public speaking society’ one is generally inclined to think, a little nervously, of very pompous people eerily keen on speaking in front of large groups of people, or self-assured extroverts too eloquent for their own good. Or simply people who talk too much.
While this may be an unfortunate stereotype of Singapore’s public speaking circuit, this is decidedly (and thankfully!) not a description of the Raffles Gavel Club. They advocate the power of speaking (an act of proactive, passionate personal articulation) over the power of speech (a detached oral delivery based on set requirements), and endeavour to move beyond a culture of passive preaching in all that they do. Why talk at people when you can speak to them?
As a subsidiary of Toastmasters International, club members improve as speakers following the established academic outline of 10 speaking projects. These are assignments that get progressively more challenging as speakers improve their skills and grow more comfortable with speaking to an audience while maintaining sincerity, personal authenticity, and of course, a general sense of well-being that, for many of us, is difficult to maintain in the spotlight. The Gavel Club actively promotes a healthy culture of feedback, which is crucial to one’s growth as a speaker; the club critiques each member’s performance with constructive criticism and lots of positive reinforcement, and is a safe, supportive audience with which to entrust one’s learning.
The weekly commitment that the Gavel Club expects from its members is 2 hours. Members complete their Toastmasters projects in smaller groups on Tuesday afternoons, when the entire club meets. Club sessions are used for speaking activities which serve to train speaking skill, allow club members to better acquaint themselves with each other through personal sharing on issues they find significant, and inspire a safe, non-judging, trusting environment for self-expression.
In addition, for members who are especially keen on community work, the Gavel Club collaborates with the Children’s Cancer Foundation, extending its public speaking experience to physically weakened teenagers battling terminal illnesses through weekly enrichment lessons.
With the right attitude, one can benefit enormously from opportunities to speak in front of large audiences in different arenas, from weekly club sessions to national public speaking competition opportunities which are available exclusively to Gavel members. Besides this, the constant availability of constructive feedback enables members to identify specific areas for improvement of which they were previously unaware.
Beyond the different academic learning opportunities that being a member of the Raffles Gavel Club grants, joining the Gavel club is an opportunity to join a family of forthcoming, warm and determined people with extremely varied interests and backgrounds. The transition to JC can be daunting and a little lonely for everyone at points, and the Gavel club is a warm, unconditional base that one can always return to for support and energy, and contribute towards through honest expression.
All interested candidates will undergo a selection interview. The selection criteria is not based on eloquence in speaking or one’s command of English; it is based on how keen members are to learn and grow in effective self-expression. The Gavel club welcomes all applications regardless of which country or school candidates hail from or their present levels of fluency. Everyone has a story to tell, and everyone has a voice that must be found and used.
Anyone can take the stand and talk, to assume bestowed authority, but it takes courage and confidence to make a stand and speak: to create your own stage when you have something to say. The Raffles Gavel Club envisions a team of true 2014 speakers who will bring to the table humility, respect, and dedication.
The Raffles Gavel Club will be led in 2013 by chairpersons Aristo Phedro Joseof and Laura Lee.