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St. Albert reporter helps Alberta youths find their voices

Carmen Leibel teaches students public speaking skills
SPEAKING TIPS — St. Albert public speaking educator Carmen Leibel gives Lilian Schick School Grade 6 student Cooper Bahm some tips on how to deliver a speech May 16, 2024. Leibel runs a business called Project Five that teaches public speaking. KEVIN MA/St. Albert Gazette

A St. Albert TV reporter is helping thousands of Alberta students learn the art of public speaking.

St. Albert resident and former CTV reporter Carmen Leibel helped about 200 students at Lilian Schick School in Bon Accord learn public speaking earlier this year. She recently invited the Gazette to see the students practise their skills.

Public speaking is an essential part of the school curriculum, with students having to give presentations and speak up in class, said Lilian Schick teacher Jayne Barr. But it’s a nerve-wracking experience for many, with some refusing to do in-class presentations and asking teachers for waivers.

Barr said her school had heard of Leibel’s new public speaking education business, dubbed Project Five, and got a grant to have her bring it to the school.

Speaking skills

Leibel said she got the idea to start Project Five during the COVID-19 pandemic when she noticed poor communications skills in St. Albert youths after schools switched to online learning.

“Technology has definitely altered how we communicate,” she said, but it can’t replace the face-to-face skills we need for job interviews, socializing, networking, and other in-person situations.

“Now more than ever we need to take the time to work on these speaking skills.”

Leibel said she worked with Janice Flower of St. Albert Children’s Theatre to hold a one-off public-speaking workshop in Fall 2022. The workshop proved so popular they had to start a wait-list. After holding a pilot student workshop at Joseph M. Demko School in early 2023, she decided to start Project Five last September and became a full-time speech educator.

Leibel said she draws upon her background in theatre and 16 years of broadcast journalism to help students learn to use their voices, share ideas, engage an audience, and communicate effectively. Her lessons use games, group and class discussions, and practice speeches to teach students the five steps (prepare, practise, pace, position, present — the “five” in Project Five) to a successful speech. After five days of practice, students close out the workshop by giving a speech before their classmates.

“Public speaking is the No. 1 fear [of most people], but I truly believe it doesn’t have to be,” said Leibel, referring to an oft-cited statistic.

Leibel said she has run workshops for about 2,000 people in the Calgary, Edmonton, St. Albert, and Sturgeon County regions since last September, including a growing number of adults.

Barr said about 95 per cent of her students are now willing to volunteer to speak in class following Leibel’s lessons, compared to about 30 per cent before. This included at least two students who would previously outright refuse to do so.

“It’s actually been magical to see.”

Student Chase Park (who gave a humorous speech about how his cats spent all his money to go to the Super Bowl) said Leibel’s lessons taught him to stand tall and be confident when speaking.

“We can use these skills when we’re older,” he said, such as when they get a job interview.

Leibel recalled one Grade 9 girl in a recent workshop who started out not being able to speak in front of her class. By Day Four of the workshop, the girl was asking her if she could give her speech early, as she was going to be absent on presentation day.

“That’s what keeping me going, is seeing the difference it’s making.”

Visit for details on Leibel’s program.

Kevin Ma

About the Author: Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.
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