Today, I had the opportunity to see something really special in my role as Tech Specialist for the Cross-Cultural Rhetoric Project — I got to see a speaker transcend the limitations of video conference technology (the flattening out of “presence” into two-dimensional space) and really become PRESENT in a live and active way in our classroom. I’m talking here about a workshop for Alyssa O’Brien’s “Rhetoric and Global Leadership” class led by our friend and colleague, John Paval.
Now, John (who is based in Stockholm) has led many virtual workshops on public speaking and oral rhetoric for our Stanford Writing & Rhetoric classes over the past two and a half years, but today was really special. In today’s session, he focused much of his time on oral delivery and what we in PWR like to call “embodied rhetoric” — that is, how to use your own body, your own presence, as a rhetorical tool.
What really amazed me about how he did it was that from thousands of miles away, he got the students up and on their feet, literally, leading them through an active and engaging practicum on how posture, gesture, and expression can all be used rhetorically.
Quite an accomplishment for a speaker, sitting alone in an office in Sweden on a Friday evening, speaking into a webcamera.