The CONNECT sequence begins with a four semester series of intensive workshops focusing on Individual Communication Skills and Elements of Communication. Each workshop is three hours long and attended as a requirement of the Professional Development Workshops and Seminars (ESC000) in which each student is automatically enrolled. These are followed by an emphasis on professional situations in the Communication in Practice workshops that are attended during the junior and senior years as a part of relevant upper level courses.
Individual Communication Skills
The Individual Skills Workshop is attended by all freshmen in their first semester. It is based around one-minute impromptu speeches on randomly selected topics that involve some "technical" elements. This intense, artificially stressful situation highlights specific issues with each individual. The workshop participants discuss, observe and experience the presentation effectiveness and audience response. Workshop facilitators devise exercises, on the spot, to help the speakers address the issues that arise and develop mechanisms to enhance their strengths and overcome their weaknesses.
Elements of Communication
All freshmen (beginning in their second semester) and sophomores attend workshops that focus on the basic elements of professional and academic communication: voice, body, content, groups, and the use of notes and prepared speeches. Each student will attend at least three of the following:
Students explore the expressive potential of the voice in a variety of communication situations. Producing even elementary sounds with the proper energy is demonstrated to have great communicative value. Participants explore how to use the breath effectively, the impact of posture on speech, and simple relaxation techniques to enhance their vocal expression.
This experiential workshop engages the students in different types of physical communication, including gesture, touch, posture, facial expression, and relating to space. Participants delve into the physical differences between individual, pair and group expression, as well as situational factors such as cultural difference or the presence of authority figures.
Expression of Content
Participants are coached in a flexible and effective approach to organizing material efficiently, logically and persuasively. The emphasis is on how best to meet the needs and expectations of a given audience in relation to a particular topic.
Students experience what it means to communicate both within a group (to each other) and as a group (to an audience). An engaging series of exercises increases participants' awareness of the options available to a team of communicators. The emphasis is on the techniques they may use as a team rather than on organizing or allocating content.
Reading Allowed (Expression of Notes and Pre-Written Speeches)
This workshop provides experience in techniques for "cold reading" unfamiliar texts without seeming unprepared or losing an audience's attention. Participants learn to deliver pre-written speeches that are drawn from business, politics, literature, American history and professional engineering. In the process, skills and techniques are demonstrated that are applicable to the use of index cards and notepads, as well as their modern equivalents - slide shows, teleprompters, and open laptops.
Communication in Practice
These specialized in-class workshops for juniors and seniors focus on either an advanced communication skill such as the importance of non-verbal communication in job interviews or on a vital communication issue in the engineering workplace.
This workshop examines issues revolving around gestures, physical attitude, appearance, facial expression and "integrated movement". Students learn to exploit their natural gestures and physical expressiveness through exercises to give each participant an understanding of their innate ability to enhance their communication. The workshop is generally focused on the job interview situation, but may also deal with decision-making, conflict resolution or intercultural communication.
Put That in a Memo!
This sees memo writing as a "performance" that has to meet the expectations of the diverse professional audiences that engineers are called upon to communicate with in written form. Differences in style, form of address, format and vocabulary are explored as the students are challenged to write memos to several distinct audiences, and are called upon to identify - based only on the wording of the memos - which of those audiences their colleagues are attempting to address.
Slide Show Preparation
This workshop consists of an intensive preparation session in advance of class presentations that use a slide show as the main visual aid. The facilitator views and discusses the initial drafts of the slides with a view to identifying the purpose and role of each one in the context of the larger presentation. Students are encouraged to see the slide show as a tool for communicating rather as a "crutch" that takes the focus off of the presenter or presenters themselves.
This session is provided to classes in which students present their course projects in the form of a poster display such as one might find at a professional conference. The posters are displayed and critiqued in an extended one-on-one session with a facilitator who is seeing the material and its presentation for the first time, giving the students a feel for how their posters might "play" in the real world.
The Professional Proposal
The technical proposal is approached as an act of communication addressed to a specific professional audience rather than as a generic piece of writing. The participants confront issues that include the differences between internal and external proposals, positive versus negative verbal expression, the distinction between proposals that seek to create opportunities versus those meant to solve problems, options for proper formatting, and the succinct expression of a proposal's purpose and significance.
Presentation Observation and Critique
Many upper level courses use CONNECT facilitators to observe and critique in-class presentations. The critique consists of a direct response to the presentations as they are delivered in class and a follow-up written critique that is supplied to the professor and the students.
Public Speaking in a Nutshell
Available to both upper and lower level classes, this is a succinct one-hour review of the basics of public speaking, emphasizing general principles such as volume, eye contact, the avoidance of distracting gestures, the effective use of notes, how best to refer to a slide projection, pacing, and organization.