Workshops help students communicate with clarity and impact

October 30, 2023

As policy professionals, Ford School graduates will need to expertly convey new ideas, propose policy to higher ups, lead teams toward a shared goal, build support among factions, present data, and respond to questions ‘on the spot.’  Much like the written word, communicating verbally with clarity and impact requires practice, intention, and feedback. This semester, the Ford School’s Leadership Initiative offered two opportunities for all students to practice impromptu speaking and storytelling. 

In October, students gathered during lunch to field a range of unexpected questions about their life in Ann Arbor, complicated policy issues, or a favorite memory. They were given only two minutes to structure and deliver a coherent and confident response. Career Services staff and students provided constructive feedback. 

“As an international student, the Impromptu Questions sessions have been valuable in my journey towards becoming a better communicator,” said Francisco Daniel Renteria Macedo (MPP ‘23). “I appreciate the structured, low-stakes platform they provide for practicing public speaking and receiving constructive feedback. It's a safe space to navigate the unexpected, a skill that's key in our field. They have helped me to be more adaptable in various professional situations and develop self-awareness for how to improve.”

The Leadership Initiative also teamed up with the Sanger Leadership Center at the Ross School of Business, to promote and support Sanger’s Story Lab program. Story Lab is designed to help students develop and present a compelling story based on their life experiences to a large audience of their peers. Students work with facilitators to improve their delivery and audience response. After the initial workshop, students may apply to receive individual speech coaching, participate in a showcase event, and tell their story to hundreds live on stage or via a podcast. 

Brittney Barros (MPP/MSW ‘24), who was selected for the showcase in spring 2023 said,  "participating in Story Lab enhanced my public speaking skills through working with a professional speaking coach. It also provided me the opportunity to share my personal impact on legislation based on my own lived experience. I was able to show up and show out a personal story that matters deeply to me." You can watch Brittney tell her story on the big stage here.

This semester, 83 students across UM degree programs participated in the Story Lab workshop held in Weill Hall, including 15 Ford students. The Story Lab Showcase is scheduled for December 5, 2023 at Robertson Auditorium starting at 5:00 PM.

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