Those prospective Local Talk Community Foundation High School Public Speaking Competition participants were not disappointed in the primer and pointers that were given here at the IHOP at 1129 Broad St. April 28.
Speakers from diverse walks in life more than presented the basics of public presentation before 13 "Local Talk" area high school students. The high schoolers from Montclair, Newark, East Orange and Orange were put through individual and group real world exercises by the likes of motivational speaker Caryl Lucas and Orange Mayor Eldridge Hawkins, Jr.
The 13 who returned to their respective high schools learned more than preparing for the Third Annual Local Talk Community Foundation Public Speaking Competition, to be held later this autumn.
They left the IHOP meeting room knowing from Lucas and Hawkins what goes into public speaking for most any occasion. They also received further motivational messages from Z Fitness founder Zeb Cantlow, philanthropist Pat Balavender and "Local Talk" Editor/Publisher Dhiren Shah.
The dozen - from Newark's Barringer High School plus Montclair, East Orange and Orange highs - were not the only audience members that left the 90-minute session positively impressed.
Orange Superintendent of Schools Ronald Lee and Newark Public Schools official Mercedes Valle were among the workshop and seminar's guests. Lee himself left the room talking about starting a similar program in the Orange public school district. There was also an Essex County College student who also took notes and participated in the exercises.
Lucas started the Saturday afternoon event with individual handshakes before returning to her place on the dais.
"What I did was that I looked straight at you in the eyes while giving my name and extending my hand," said Lucas. "That's what I did when I went to the 'Newark Star-Ledger' for an interview. It was one of the things that helped my interviewer remember me when I was called back for a job offer."
Lucas, before passing the helm to Hawkins, also asked each of the participants to stand up, give their name and talk a little about themselves. She then evaluated each speaker's strengths and potential improvement areas.
Hawkins then asked the assembly to count out one-to-four and split into groups. The mayor then gave each respective group a Tennessee A&M alumni dinner schedule, a local NAACP awards handbill, Whitney Houston’s funeral program and a fourth handout.
"I'm giving each of you five minutes to come up with a public speaking presentation," said Hawkins. "You may select who speaks which part of what you'll speak about."
Hawkins, after each of the four groups took turns with their verbal presentations, led the audience in their rounds of applause.
"You've had more time than what I usually have in preparing to speak," said the mayor. "As a politician, I sometimes go to up to several events in a day. While walking in, I grab a program, look for speaking points and have something ready in my mind before it's my turn."
Hawkins stressed the importance of knowing the type of audience and the gravity of the event. The mayor added pointers of how to open one's remarks, have anecdotes ready and how to pause while putting a lost train of thought on track.
"Depending on where one is speaking, it helps to open with a joke," said Hawkins. "Draw something from your own life's experiences; it may be something you've repeated before, but it will usually be something new to the particular audience. Most of you do not say 'um,' or lost your thought - but, should you stumble, you may say 'there's a word or expression for it.' "
Cantlow, while comparing his collaboration with the foundation from when he opened his fitness center a few years ago, among other observations, talked about looking beyond one's immediate environment.
"The other day, we had the Space Shuttle Enterprise flown into New York on the back of a 747," said Cantlow. "Do you know there were some people who saw those planes and called the police, saying that we're being attacked by terrorists again?"
Shah brought up the time his local Cub Scout pack was about to disband for a lack of participation as an example of making a difference.
"The Cub pack was down to two boys and two parents," said Shah. "I held cubs versus parents team nights, among other things that got people involved. Before I left the pack, we had 38 kids enrolled, the largest one in the state."
IHOP No. 4671 - owned by Cliff Gennarelli, the gracious host of the event - was first locally known as Dale's Pancake House into the 1980s. The International House of Pancakes restaurant, just off Watchung Avenue and near the Garden State Parkway, is located in Bloomfield's Brookdale section, near Montclair, Glen Ridge and Nutley.