I had the honor recently of being one of three judges at Speak Confidently’s public speaking grand finale competition. Founded by entrepreneur Sushana Chaudhary, Speak Confidently teaches New Jersey-based students to become confident and effective when talking before an audience. Some 30 South Asian students grades 3 to 12 competed in three categories: panel-interview style speeches, prepared speeches, and impromptu speeches. I was blown away by these 8- to 18-year-olds. Why?
Yes, the students spoke confidently, but it was their subjects that so strongly affected me: climate change, electric cars, gun violence, bullying, and mental health. They expressed their knowledge and insights succinctly, with thought and purpose.
They had researched their topics well, learning how to organize their thoughts and getting their key messages across effectively and persuasively. They also had practiced, learning to overcome their fears of public speaking. They had become good presenters and communicators, and their increased confidence, poise and leadership skills shined.
Their speeches gave me great hope for the future.
For one, these young public speakers demonstrate that the next generation is gaining tools and skills that will aid them in gaining employment and becoming productive contributors to society.
Second, their ability to tackle complex and tough topics, learning facts, forming opinions, and championing changes convinces me our world’s future will be in good hands.
Third, to know they applied themselves, spending time and effort researching and preparing as well as finding the courage to overcome their fears of public speaking. Their delivery of such compelling speeches makes me confident that with the right tools and engagement, we can empower this younger generation to become great leaders.
Finally, hats off to Sushana Chaudhary for identifying a gap in the market, especially for South Asian students. We know many such young people who are good at science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, but who also may need softer skills of verbal and non-verbal communication that make discussions, debates and public speaking impactful.
Using her educational background in journalism and marketing, and her professional experience as a TV news reporter, Sushana is using her talent for good. As a public speaking coach and educator, she helps adults and students build confidence as effective public speakers. But event more, she is giving them the critical tools of empowerment to create impact with a multiplier effect.