How TEDxSuzhou is supercharging public speaking skills

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TEDxSuzhou is stepping-up its partnership with Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University to hold events that facilitate discussion on important issues and boost public speaking skills in the wider community.

An event, ‘Urban Future’, drew people from all over Suzhou and neighbouring areas who listened to TED-style talks and participated in workshops on urbanisation and other related topics.

Janine Jakob (pictured above, left) happiness researcher and masters student at SKEMA business school, co-organised a workshop with Laurence Lau (right), innovation and entrepreneurship mentor at National University of Singapore Research Institute, Suzhou, who also leads one of the several Toastmasters public speaking clubs in Suzhou.

Their workshop was designed to emphasise concepts of global citizenship, enable participants to practice impromptu speaking skills, and to collaborate to create blueprints for possible urban futures.

“I found the impromptu public speaking task challenging but enjoyable,” said high school student Yuxuan Peng (pictured above, left). “We had to quickly form ideas within our groups of four or five people and then share them with the whole group. We learned practical skills for how to brainstorm, organise, and present our ideas in a logical way.”

Xiaoyang Zhu, facilities staff member at Duke Kunshan University who travelled to Suzhou to attend the event, remarked that the methods learned in Janine and Laurence’s workshop could be applied by people in many different fields.

As well as other workshops on design, mindfulness, and other topics, the event included a programme of TED-style talks by carefully-selected speakers, performances by magicians Chengrun Zhang and Jacking Liu, and live music by the band Love Suzhou.

Mark Sinnott, teacher of English for Academic Purposes at XJTLU, was selected to speak about his experiences with urbanisation, having lived and worked in cities in ten countries around the globe.

“My first suggestion regarding public speaking is: don’t worry,” said Mark. “It’s one of people’s biggest fears, but it can be overcome. I used to lack confidence as a public speaker but my experience as a teacher and my involvement in drama and music performance have helped a lot.”

XJTLU staff and students have collaborated with TEDxSuzhou on several events in the past, including sponsoring, doing design work, and providing speakers for its events at the Suzhou Culture & Arts Centre.

"We define TEDxSuzhou as Technology, Education and Youth Development,” said Jade Zhao, founder of TEDxSuzhou. “XJTLU is a big part of our community - the first TEDxSuzhou conference was held at XJTLU in 2012, and that's why we wanted to come back to XJTLU this year."

story and photos by Danny Abbasi; additional photos by Fang Zhuang

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