COCAbiz’ Artful Speaker workshop empowers job seekers at SDI Summer Session

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Artists from COCAbiz once again lent their expertise to disabled job seekers during SDI’s Networking Bootcamp, July 15-18 at the Brentwood Community Center.

The Artful Speaker, an immersive workshop facilitated by COCAbiz staff, inspires personal authenticity and confidence through creative communication exercises. Training was divided into three focus segments: Personal Presence, Craft the Story and Speak the Story.

Day one of our Bootcamp featured Ed Reggi, an Emmy Award-winning improvisational actor who travels the world performing and sharing his improv skills. Reggi led the class through a number of applied improv exercises designed to help speakers become fully present in conversations, manage stress and project their most confident, engaging selves.

Jason Hartsfield, Adult Career Services Coordinator at Starkloff, thinks the improv techniques, like the improvisational concept of “yes, and …,” helps job seekers to sustain their conversations in meaningful ways. “When someone gives you a premise, you have to build on it,” he explains. “You take what they’re giving you, expand upon it and give it back to them. It’s like playing verbal catch.”

Day two of the Bootcamp focused on crafting personal stories through language and narrative flow. Susan Grigsby, an acclaimed author, poet and teacher, challenged the class with a variety of creative activities centered around writing and storytelling. She encouraged participants to use literary devices like metaphor and simile to convey their stories in a more compelling fashion.

“Susan would bring objects from her home,” Jason exemplifies. “It could be anything … a flower from her garden, a can of something or a toy car. She would then ask each person, ‘how are you like this object?’”

The COCAbiz workshop wrapped up on day three with a session devoted to speaking with confidence and authenticity.

Lee Anne Mathews, a well-known acting veteran who founded the Alaska Shakespeare Festival and Freefall Theatre Company, worked with Bootcamp participants on controlled breathing, managing nerves and presenting a persona of self-assuredness through posture and tone.

Dylan Farmer, a job seeker who participated in the Bootcamp, felt that the COCAbiz curriculum was extremely valuable. “I would have to say I think we all learned a lot about how to project confidence through our posture, inflection and choice of words,” he says. “Different parts of the training might have been a little nerve-wracking, but it was fun and we were eager to absorb the information. I don’t think anyone was too intimidated.”

Jason’s role throughout the Bootcamp was to show job seekers how to leverage these communication tools for professional networking. The final day of Bootcamp featured a mock networking event where participants could apply the strategies they learned throughout the week.

Networking Bootcamp was educational for everyone, not just for SDI job seekers. “Most of the clients COCAbiz works with are executives in white suits,” Jason says. “Although we also work with professionals, we specialize in the disability aspect. I think the people from COCAbiz enjoy learning about that.”


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