Students at YU had a chance to train like diplomats on February 15 when the Schneier Center for International Affairs presented its first public diplomacy workshop, featuring Israeli Ambassador Danny Ayalon and communications specialist Eva Rosenstein. “To tell the story of Israel, and to give the messages is difficult because many individuals have preconceived notions in their minds,” said Rosenstein, who is the president of the Lilyan Wilder Center for Communication Excellence, a nonprofit dedicated to coaching Israeli leaders in the art of communication.
The Schneier Center, founded in 2004, seeks to “enhance citizen participation and civic culture, and set the standard for open dialogue, peacefully conducted.” Although the Schneier Center has funded several undergraduate student research projects in international studies and graduate student work in the past, the workshop was a departure from its norm in its expansion beyond strictly political study to skills-based programming.
The two-hour seminar, held in the Belfer Sky Cafe, highlighted the importance of communicating political messages effectively. “There are two ways by which to influence people,” Rosenstein explained. “One way is by force and the other way is by speaking with them.”
Rosenstein’s condensed workshop, which typically takes a day to present, focused on improving a wide spectrum of skills such as developing effective messages, presenting them well, and connecting with the audience. Rosenstein’s ultimate goal is to create three dimensional speakers through “combining the sound of the body, brilliance from mind, and the convictions from the heart.”
The event kicked off with a short video presentation about Jerusalem starring Ambassador Ayalon, who founded “The Truth About Israel,” a nonprofit created to educate the public about the facts of Israel through short video clips. “Social media is a very important part of public diplomacy today,” the ambassador said. “This is the way to level the playing fields for Israel and the world.” He then introduced Rosenstein, explaining that learning the skills of effective delivery don’t just apply to diplomacy, but to every aspect of life.
Rosenstein’s multimedia presentation featured dozens of videos and clips from various politicians for participants of the workshop to analyze. “As far as I’m considered, even the best can be better.” she said. She pointed out perceived flaws in the speech patterns of many politicians, such as Hillary Clinton’s shouting style and President Trump’s unprofessional delivery. Yet, she explained that politicians can still reach audiences with a powerful message, despite poor articulation.
Rosenstein likes to say that an effective speaker needs to double as a sleuth, constantly asking questions about the audience and considering how to reach them properly. She explained that the most important information to keep in mind when speaking is to be prepared. “There are many good reasons to deliver a speech but there’s only one bad one: you were asked and you didn’t give it a second thought of preparation,” Rosenstein said.
Rosenstein started out in the tech world, teaching computer science. She entered the world of public diplomacy after telling a marketing executive at a technology conference that the speakers were boring. He implored her to train them herself, and she accepted the challenge. After searching for a consultant, she found Lilyan Wilder, a communication consultant who counseled notable speakers such as Oprah Winfrey, Benjamin Netanyahu, and President George W. Bush. Lilyan’s dream was to supply leaders with the necessary skills to positively represent Israel to the world. Today, Rosenstein doesn’t just teach public speaking, but also develops talking points for Israeli leaders.
Students attended the workshop for varying reasons. Some came to hear about the organization, while others wanted to gain insight into public speaking. “I obtained some useful tips for my speech class,” said Faigy Singer, who is currently enrolled in Speech Communication at Stern. It was a great opportunity for students with different interests to come together and learn something new that could apply to their stay at Yeshiva University and beyond.