RNTC workshop to LGBTI activists
RNW Media

Telling LGBTI stories with passion and pride

How do you get your story across when you’re facing a wall of hostility and the sensitive topics you feel strongly about are laughed at, or ignored? When you’re standing up for sexual rights that are considered taboo in the conservative society you are part of?

Telling a powerful story helps. Telling it with confidence and passion is key. The techniques for this were explained to an international group of LGBTI* activists at a special workshop organised by RNW Media’s training centre, RNTC.

“It’s all about being yourself, about communicating your passion with intensity and connecting emotionally with your audience,” says Deborah Abrahams, one of the two trainers at the half-day RNTC workshop.

“People are different and there is no universal rule, no magic one-size-that-fits-all formula, but I do think there are certain things that can help. First, we make each individual person realise that what they’re trying to say and what they do is really important. This is not just about preparation, it’s also a mental process, about the belief in yourself and what you do, and giving space for that in your head.”

Confidence
That process should start even before you’re in the room, before you give the interview or join the panel, Deborah adds.

“You can then be confident about who you are and what you do. And then you don’t get thrown by big numbers in the public or by ‘important’ people.”

The participants in the workshop were invited as part of the 'Influentials' Programme of the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, organised by the Netherlands Enterprise Agency to coincide with the Amsterdam Gay Pride event. The theme of this year’s programme is Divine Love – LGBTI Rights & Religion.

Nervous

“What I’ve learned this morning will help me overcome the feeling of nervousness I have in front of an audience,” says Diego Puntigliani (22, pictured right) from Uruguay.

Diego is part of Colectivo Ovejas Negras, which has been advocating parliamentary approval of LGBT rights since the early 2000s. A gender law and same sex marriage legislation were passed in Uruguay in 2009 and 2013, but further progress has been blocked by religious institutions.

Diego feels that the workshop has given him some tools to get his message across more effectively.

“I feel more confident now about how to prepare for a speech, finding the right words and focusing on body language. Because words are important, but the way you appear in front of an audience makes all the difference. Even if people aren’t paying full attention to your words, then your body language can help to convey your message. This is particularly true in my country, where we use our hands a lot to emphasize our words.”

Story
While Diego practiced his public speaking skills in role play sessions, a second group of participants focused on the structure of storytelling. Powerful, persuasive stories are at the core of all successful communication, says RNTC trainer Shaun Matsheza.

“We discussed key components of powerful stories, such as building up tension in a narrative arch, using credible sources and presenting universal truths. These are techniques you can also use in interviews and debates, even when faced with hostile comments or questioning, especially when encountering religious homophobia.”

Practice
Diego says that he will use both storytelling and public speaking skills at Amsterdam Gay Pride and in his campaign at home.  

“The lessons I’ve learned at this workshop will certainly be helpful this week, when I meet and interact with other activists, for instance, to present myself and get to know them better. It will help me in my networking activities and will be of use if I’m asked to join a debate.”

“Usually, workshops are quite formal occasions. But here the atmosphere was very warm, welcoming and inviting. The lessons and tips given by Deborah and Shaun were more like advice from a friend, and not so much like a teacher saying that you have to learn this and that.”

*LGBTI stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex

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