Sunday, March 29, 2009

Stage Presence

I was with a debater friend when the topic 'stage presence' came up. He said that some had it and some didn't, mentioning a few debaters' names. He said that having stage presence meant that when one got up to speak, people would immediately pay attention. Their eyes would be drawn to that person. He thought that tall people naturally had stage presence, if only because they stood taller than others. When I thought about it, I realized he was right. But however, not ALL tall people had stage presence. And I knew why.

To have stage presence, one essential element is CONFIDENCE.

Some tall people hide themselves, hunching their shoulders and bending their heads. Some would speak with soft voices, They wanted to disappear. Literally. Maybe they were embarrassed about their height, maybe they didn't want to stand out. Which is such a pity, really. People who stand out can influence others, can help others.

Imagine a teacher with influence.... such a teacher can literally MAKE students believe him and make students WANT to learn from him. Whoa...powerful stuff.

However, too big a topic. Let's go back to debating.

When it comes down to the line, a debater with all the words and evidence in the world will not win against against another who has stage presence. How many times have I been frustrated with outcomes that tell me how important stage presence is?

All this while, my coaching has been treating stage presence as something to be handled towards the end....but now I'm focusing on it first thing to be fixed.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Why I Can't Get Away From Debates

I just returned from Keningau today. Am feeling very satisfied with the Statelevel Teacher Debates that just concluded today. My team didn't win but they put up a good fight. Considering two of them were first-timers, I was glad to see both do a good job onstage. Of course they were nervous but who wouldn't be? Imagine getting up in front of a few hundred teachers and students in a big hall and debating a motion with a few others. You either end up making a cake of yourself or making people decide that you have a pretty good control of both brain and tongue.

KK was supposed to have five debaters but only three stayed the course. Eric, Sylviannie and Faris made a good team and were absolutely good sports. A friend asked me why I was still involved in debates after first jumping into the arena in 1996. To be honest with you, I love the mental calisthenics and witty turns of phrase. I also loooove the process of preparing for debates. For me, debates mean days of discussion and laughter in rooms or libraries before travelling to the debate venue two days early. Then there will be days and nights spent in hotel rooms digging out verbal gems and poking at loopholes. In the meantime, the discussion will be a mishmash of facts, stories, jokes, food and more food!

In Keningau, the team used Aloy and Susan's room as a discussion centre. By the end of the first day, the room looked like a combat zone with paper strewn everywhere, printer in the corner, food and drinks in strategic locations, people sprawled over beds chairs floor and voices vying for airtime. Henry, Aloy, Susan and I helped the three prepare...which meant tearing at points and examples, constructing new ones before smashing them to bits again. Eric and Sylviannie did presentations over and over again. It was a wonder they didn't run away, as people kept saying,"Ed-ju-cay-shenel Eks-selens! Say it again. Again. No no no, AGAIN." Eric found a pronunciation reference online and soon a robotic voice echoed throughout the room as he kept clicking on pronunciations of words. One or thrice wasn't enough for him...he had to listen to each pronunciation eight or nine times. At one point, the robotic voice was ringing in my ears. Faris was smarter...he got Henry to listen to him in private in their room.

But at one critical point, someone would say,"FOOOD! Okay, pass the paper around and write down your orders." Faris asked for Rudolf ham with rice. I was like ...say what???? Oh, he meant wild deer meat. Payau. Then when the food came, people ate and were blessedly silent for a while.

Oh, I liked the hours of camarederie ... by the end of two days, the group had forged a strong bond that could not be shared by others. How could others understand the Honey incident (where Eric called Annie 'Honey' by accident and HE ended up with the nickname Honey), or know what it felt like to listen to Henry and Aloy try to top each other in series of dirty jokes, or understand the special moment when Sibyl called Eric a boy man and he coolly responded,"Ah but there's a fine line between boy and man." That moment, he passed some kind of test that only Sibyl understood but we all accepted. Then there was the sessions in the restaurant in front of Hotel Royal where we quibbled over each other's choice of dish and ate like there was no tomorrow.

During debate sessions, I just made sure that there was a constant supply of food to keep everyone in the room happy. Being a veteran of debate preps, Aloysia supported the food supply effort as well. Susan was there as well and helped with the prep. She was a first timer but oh we all had a good time.

Then when it was debate time, time just passed like a whirlwind as the debaters were quarantined and after an hour, emerged in some kind of acceptance that whatever happened, they would be on that stage very soon. Scary time... But then they were onstage and before long, the debate was done. Eight minutes per debater...not long but not short either.

I wish wish wish I could have this every day...but if I did, I wouldn't appreciate it anymore, right?

And this is why I can never stop being involved in debates...

Sunday, March 15, 2009

English Teacher Debate Time!

It's time once again for the English Teacher Debates...and the state level topics are in!

Feeling awfully chipper about it because for the first time, I didn't have to bribe cajole beg anyone to take part! There are actually several teams of debaters who are bound and determined to annihilate each other...oh, what rapture!

Sounds pitiful, right? Yeah, I know :) but I don't blame them for not wanting to put themselves on a stage and ask for potshots. Or in debate lingo, POIs (points of information).

Imagine delivering your carefully considered ideas and thoughts about an issue to a hall full of people and suddenly, someone says,"POI! I disagree with this and this because you have deliberately ignored that and that!" In the movies, you would turn to the miscreant and decisively strike him down with your lightning bolts of truth. In most circumstances, a cold chill goes down your spine because you have no idea how to answer in a way that doesn't make you look stupid. And if your stars are not aligned right, you tend to squeak out a lame reply and rush right back into your speech..which by the way, you've forgotten quite where you stopped. But it doesn't matter anyhow because nobody knows how your speech was supposed to go. Except for your coach. Who probably might want to slide down in between the seats and quietly dissolve into a puddle of dismayed ectoplasm.

Heh heh heh.... I was just joking. Doesn't really happen that way...nope, no, no way.