“I have half a million dollars set aside for goodwill, talk to the people around you and tell me what to do with it in 30 seconds!”
Any workshop that starts that way is bound to have you hooked. Quickly scuffling into groups, we make the most of what little we know about Matt (which, at this point, is that he’s tall, wears glasses, and has family in Houston).
Day One of the Communications Fellowship Workshops had us working in groups of people we’d never met before and trying to answer questions like “What would I do in his place? How do I decide who deserves my help the most? How do I say this out loud in public?” We then presented our suggestions to Matt and his super cool (senior) Teaching Fellow, Iman, through diagrams and flow charts because *gamechanger* we weren’t allowed to speak!
This activity was followed by really useful techniques for creating our public narrative. We briefly explored what makes a story great. Is it the riveting plot? Is it the characters? Is it the storyteller bringing a bit of their own personality into it?
Hint: it’s any and/OR all of the above.
We then journeyed through the idea of The VOICE Program, Double Take (remember those videos during orientation?), and the Communications Fellowship. Matt’s got a motto of learning with purpose and creating a community that will actually empower you to use the skills you acquire through the workshops. He’s basically making sure you don’t turn into one of those people who only use their driver’s license as ID when they go into bars. You can actually take charge and steer yourself in any direction you choose!
My absolute favourite aspect of this workshop was the way it was conducted. Never a dull moment of passive listening, and every concept was something we actually got to experience and work through.
We brought everything we learnt together when we had to sell our story to Matt and convince him to give our respective teams two tickets to Thursdays’ Red Sox game at Fenway Park! Both teams took incredibly different approaches to this pitch and we’d like to think it was a tough choice for him! Our enactment of the story of a little girl singing along with every lyric to Billy Joel’s We Didn’t Start The Fire and dreaming of seeing Joe DiMaggio someday got us the tickets!
To tie it all together and get us really thinking about our story, we all closed our eyes and thought about what one powerful sentence we thought would be the start our story. One by one, we called these out into a room full of silent listeners, storytellers and dreamers. Experiencing people expose a little piece of their true selves like that was magical. Some were funny, some incredibly quirky and some hit you right in the feels. One thing they all had in common though, was incredible potential and genuine emotion. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for us with these snippets of training under Matt and Iman!
Anjali Moorthy is a student in the Specialized Studies master's program at HGSE. She is also a Communications Fellow and an intern with the VOICE Program.