Kate Hilscher ’20.5, a sociology and anthropology major and linguistics minor from Boothbay Harbor, Maine, discusses how, on a whim, she joined Oratory Now, Middlebury’s student public-speaking organization, and went on to become a paid public speaking professional.

What is your background with Oratory Now?
I joined Oratory Now in the spring of 2018 on a bit of a whim. After enjoying a workshop in one of my classes, I asked the coach, Paige Guarino ’18, how she got involved. Paige immediately signed me up for the next semesters’ training. Now, after two full semesters with O-Now (plus one semester abroad), and one summer internship creating Oratory Now Business Edition, I’m spending my third semester as a head coach, training coordinator, instructor for OratoryX, and a coauthor of our upcoming book, Oratory Games & Game Changers: A Peer Coaching Playbook.

How would you describe the work that Oratory Now does to someone who is completely unfamiliar with the organization?
Oratory Now began as a program in which students act as peer coaches, using games and incremental challenges to help students practice their public speaking in classroom workshops and individual sessions. Now it’s become a program that focuses on all forms of oral expression at Midd. Our coaches run workshops, plan speaking competitions, teach a phys-ed course, coordinate other coaches, and do volunteer work at the local schools. The best part is, if you have an idea that doesn’t already exist, you can typically do that too. The program is constantly expanding and adapting to the interests of the coaches.

What is your favorite part of your work with Oratory Now?
I love the creativity and interdisciplinary nature of Oratory Now. Unlike most classes, where you’re drawing almost exclusively on the information you’ve just learned, Oratory lets you draw on information from all different facets of life. In creating a game or challenge about audience connection, I might draw on a theory from sociology, a pose I remember from a yoga class, and a theater analogy all at once.

Tell us about a cool experience you’ve had working for Oratory Now or a unique opportunity you’ve had access to because of Oratory Now.
Last fall, as I began worrying about how to find an internship for the upcoming summer, I told Dana [Yeaton], the director of Oratory Now, that I wished I could keep coaching for O-Now all summer. Much to my surprise, he said okay. Before long, we began designing what would become Oratory Now Business Edition (or “O-Biz,” as we’ve started calling it). We designed an eight-week, CCI-funded summer internship in which we could test whether the games and game changers we use in our classroom coaching might work in the business setting. It turns out that they do. Over eight weeks, I coached 30 workshops, 24 of which happened at National Life Group in Montpelier.

Over the coming month, I’ll return to National Life Group to coach for O-Biz on select Fridays, this time as a paid professional. When I joined Oratory Now, I thought I had found an entertaining campus job. Little did I know it would allow me to create an internship, and from there, a job.

Learn more about Oratory Now and sign up for a coaching session with Kate or any of the Oratory Now coaches at oratorynow.org.

Source: Innovation Hub Weekly Newsletter, Oct. 28, 2019