By Nirodha Hasanjana Rajamanthri
It was 5.30 p.m on a Thursday afternoon – the last day of the month of February (28th). Normally this would be the start of a routine Gavel meeting, but today was different. There was a huge crowd gathered at the ENTC1 room and this was all for the Gavel Orientation of 2019. The majority of the crowd were newcomers from the faculties of Engineering and Information Technology, having only a vague idea about what Gavel really is. Seemed like all the flyers, posters and the social media posts had paid off big time. To emphasize how big the crowd was, some of the existing members of the club had to remain standing giving priority to newcomers.
The orientation program commenced at 5.45 p.m., the Gavel tradition of unpunctuality still continuing with the duo of Chathumi and Randula taking the lead with good charisma to get things going. Chathumi elaborated on what Gavel means to her, and said that she has no regrets in joining the club a year before as Gavel is full of good-looking boys and girls who “love me for who I am”. Following this, “The man who looks. He invited the audience to challenge their fears of public speaking and inspired them with the story of an egg of an eagle,
which was misplaced in the nest of a hen, and how the eagle grew up with chickens never knowing that he could fly as an eagle and died. Harsha said,‘public speaking is something you can get good at but first, you have to try’.
Next, a video showing that Gavel is not all about speeches but for the most part, is about having fun and expressing yourself was displayed: it contained many fond memories from the theme meetings, outbound trips, speech competitions were displayed showing the genuine nature of the members of the club. The time had come for the passionate, and expressive Navodini to give an introduction to how the Gavel meetings proceed and function and she started off with a video showing spongebob squarepants digging himself up with sand – to signify what comes to mind for many when confronted by a situation of public speaking. This was something that everyone in the room had experienced at least once, hence it had the audience quiet and listening intently. Navodini went through the stages of how a routine meeting is conducted, introduces the roles played by the role players and wraps up her 20 min session with a punch that “Gavel is all about fun and a place where fear becomes passion”.
Randula took over after her and invited the one and only dramatic Kasun, one of the most experienced public speakers of the club to take the lead for an interactive session, and Kasun did not disappoint as he jumps from the stage creating some hype in the room and invites his “boyfriend” Kanchana – together referred as the dynamic duo of the club – to get the audience pumped up to play the traditional game at the orientation program: A sheet of paper is passed to everyone in the audience and objective is to meet as many people you can in the room and write down their names and one weird thing about each of them before 15 minutes has passed and the person who would end up with the longest list will be given a delicious reward of chocolate fingers. And the game started with a huge “go!!” shouted by Kasun and timer on the screen started ticking.
There wasn’t much commotion to start with as the people were busy noting down the names of the people around them but after a few minutes, there was a lot of commotion where everyone started moving around and this lasted till the very end of the game when kasun again yells ‘stop!’ after giving a dramatic countdown. Out of the 126 people present, there were only 2 who managed to jot down 30+ names and another 5 who got above 25. Harsha is invited to hand over the prizes and also takes a group photo with the winners. But, instead leaving the winners to have the chocolate prizes themselves, Kasun encourages them to share it with everyone else and wraps up the interactive session with “sharing is caring, and Gavel is one family”.
Next, the stage was taken over by our well-composed Thuji to share an interesting experience he had at Gavel and to indulge the audience in what it took to do his 1st speech. He shared his point of view on what challenges he faced and how he overcame them and gave hope to those who are afraid of doing their first speech.
Chathumi takes over and makes way for another speech by Dulinda but warning us with “don’t believe anything he says”. Dulinda, a very experienced public speaker and also the winner of the speech Olympiad XI, starts off very well giving something that the audience did not expect – not a speech about improving public speaking skills. He explains a bit about himself and how he is good at bugging people – shows it well by attacking Chathumi for hiding the story about the relationship she found with Randula in Gavel. The audience laughed at this and Dulinda further managed to get them hooked saying “there is something fundamentally wrong, biologically if a guy doesn’t like girls” and this was a bullet aimed at the relationship between K&K Ranasinghe (kasun & kanchana), and further took a moment to embarrass Amaya about her island 1st speech. He next bashed the President Harsha, comparing his bearded appearance with the underworld leader “Makandure Madush”. Using these moments, he expressed to the audience that “GavelMora is not about public speaking alone but a family with people you can relate to” as all the members put up with his bugging and accepts him for who he is. He successfully inspired the audience on what joining Gavel can do to them in a lot of aspects let alone public speaking, and gave an insight to about how different the culture in the Gavel club is. He wraps up his entertaining speech with the lines “In Gavel, we are all one, and GavelMora will be there when you need a friend” to get the newcomers more intent on joining the club. The control was transferred back to Randula, who further supports Dulinda’s statements as “Gavel is one package where you meet people, share your stories and learn public speaking”.
A few minutes’ break was taken, and another video showing the fun memories at Gavel is displayed, to give the idea of Gavel more thoroughly and strongly. Chathumi took over the control again and invited one her close friends, the island 1st of the 2016 A/L’s, Amaya to share her thoughts with the audience. She shared one of her stories of how she abandoned a project as it was a day of a Gavel meeting and it was already late at 6.30 p.m. This resulted in her losing a few marks but she said that it didn’t matter and she managed to spend time with her Gavel family despite coming in late and this was inspiring as she is usually one who favors marks. She further highlighted the importance of public speaking skills as an undergraduate and shows that the fear surrounding it can be overcome one day. She asked the crowd in front of her what they feel when they hear “Gavel” and interacts with the thoughts that were shared. She illustrated all the benefits she got from Gavel which affected most aspects in her life and wraps up her words by returning the control to Chathumi and Randula. The romantic couple next gave the opportunity to the audience to share their thoughts on “why not come to Gavel?” and there were many interesting replies along with Kasun’s hilarious answer “because of me”.
Coming to the end of the program, it was now time to have a model meeting session to give a first-hand experience to the newcomers on what it’s like, and the session was headed by Chamode who came up with the following topics for the speeches to be based on,
- If I had a superpower….
- My best ever memory
- My first day at university
- Keep swimming…..
Chamode invited Kithmin, to do the first speech of the model meeting, and Kithmin shared his story of how he started swimming and the places and times he found it difficult to swim but nevertheless managed to overcome those obstacles and keep on swimming. He used this to tell the audience that they managed to swim through their lives until university, but as university can be difficult itself at times, let GavelMora help them to keep on swimming through it.
The stage was set for the next speech as one of the speech Olympiad finalists last year, Thishani made her way gathering everyone’s attention. She talked about her first day at university and how afraid she felt at the time due to the fear imposed by her seniors and conveyed how she negatively looked at every immediate senior in the university. But she meets someone special who fell under the same ‘senior’ category and talks about the interesting conversations she and her friend had with him and how it made things better. This person ends up being her present lover and Thishani sums up her story giving a life advice to the audience that “people come into your life at unexpected times, so welcome them”.
Finally, the last speech to be given by a member of the club for the meeting was to be done by Dineth as he boldly marched towards the front from the back of the room and take a few seconds to compose himself in front of his listeners. He shared his experience on a camping trip he had gone on a few years back, and how he waited till the last day to go to a dancing party. But the party got cancelled on the final day it was supposed to be held and he regrets postponing and not going to it on an earlier day. He used this to twist the topic in a way more appropriate to his setting, ending the speech with “If I had a super power, I will grab the opportunities that I have kicked away in the past”, and gave back the control to Chamode.
Chamode now opened the door for the newcomers who have the courage to come and speak. Only 2 more speeches could be allowed due to time restrictions and those were offered to the newcomers. One would expect that there may at least be a little time delay for one newbie to come up with a speech and take the challenge suppressing all the butterflies in his stomach. But surprisingly, just as Chamode finished giving the invitation, one of the guys who won the traditional game earlier got up from his seat and strode forward amidst the applause from the crowd in the room. For his first speech at Gavel, he does really well as everyone listened to his experience on his first day at university. Just as he concluded his speech and headed for his seat, another brave guy rose and strode toward the center of the stage. The Gavel orientation seems to have paid off in getting the message through strongly and inspiring many of the people who are new to Gavel to hope and have some courage. As he faced the audience – his fellow colleagues – he took a few seconds to gather his thoughts and expressed them to us speaking about his best ever memory preforming just as well as the one before him. After his very courageous effort, Chamode concluded the model meeting after introducing the ways to connect with the club through social medial platforms like Facebook and official Gavel website.
Finally, reaching the very end of the program, it was time for the vote of thanks to be given by Shahan, one of the co-chairs who organized the event along with Akhila and Thishani. He thanked all the newcomers for being present at the occasion and also everyone who helped to make this event a success and wished everyone a safe journey home.
Just as everyone was about to leave on that note, there was still something missing that could be felt and it was found out in the nick of time – The Group Photo!!! Shahan shouted out loudly and tells everyone to gather at the front just in time before many leave and miss out. Isuru, the official photographer for the event goes to the back of the room and took few photos, managing to get everyone in despite the number of people making the task difficult.
The Gavel Orientation program of 2019 concluded on a graceful night at 7.30 p.m. ending a time filled with a lot of fun and many memories with hope of a bigger Gavel family to be present with lots of new faces in the next meeting. Cheers!