Lebanese American University

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Campus events advance public speaking, debate skills

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Haraty addresses the causes of speech anxiety and presents some solutions.

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Parker and Fitch teach debate skills to Lebanese students.

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Haraty during her lecture on April 4.

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One of the two award-winning trainers gives tips on how to engage in a debate.

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April 14, 2008—

Effective communication was the focus of two Beirut campus events in early April, namely a lecture about speech anxiety and a series of workshops on public debate.

Dr. Nabelah Haraty, an instructor in LAU’s Humanities Division, presented a lecture entitled “Look Who is Speaking,” under Alumni Affairs Office auspices on April 4. More than 120 alumni and LAU community members listened to Haraty’s advice about how to combat the anxiety people feel when they have to speak in pubic.

Haraty, an expert in oral communication, first identified the elements of good communication—the speaker; the verbal and non-verbal message; the auditory and visual channels; the noise distorting the message; the physical, socio-psychological, temporal and cultural context; the speaker’s and the audience’s culture; and the presentation. 

She said the basic obstacles to effective communication include the language barrier; the speaker’s high expectations, lack of experience and low self-confidence; and the fact that often presentations are not well-prepared.

After explaining various types of communication apprehension and interactive personality dimensions, Haraty ended her lecture by presenting some solutions that could help people face speech anxiety.

The following week (between April 7 and 11), around 190 students participated in a series of workshops on how to conduct a debate. Upon Haraty’s request, the English Speaking Union has agreed for a third consecutive year to send award-winning debaters from England, Michael Parker and Andrew Fitch, to teach debate skills to Lebanese students.

Parker and Fitch conducted 15 training sessions for various groups of LAU communication arts students, GC-LAUMUN team members, and Haigazian University students.

Fitch explained that they travel to different countries and teach university students the “structures and formalities of formal debate.” The two young men, members of the ESU Speech and Debate Squad, tailor their workshops to the participants’ level of English and experience in debating.

Parker emphasized the importance of the values and skills that come with debating. “The potential [in Lebanon] for good debate teams is really high,” he added.

Besides such training workshops, ESU also organizes an annual international speech competition in London. In fact, Lebanese university students compete for two top spots to represent the country at that event. This year, LAU student Sarah Bawab participated in the local competition on April 5, during which 14 university students presented five-minute speeches on a unique theme entitled “New Horizons, New Frontiers.”

Bawab, a business student in one of Haraty’s communications courses who has been working with her to prepare for the competition, said that the experience was “very fruitful and educating.”

“I didn’t want to miss this chance. I thought, whether I win or lose, it would help me,” she added. This is the sixth year that LAU participates and a student once made it to England.


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