Interview by: Ana Alibegova
Edited by: Stefan Alievikj
Picture Credits: Forum Oratores
Nobody could ever imagine what kind of energy and positive atmosphere is evoked in an approximately 9 m2 room at the Faculty of Law “Iustinianus Primus” in Skopje, Macedonia. The colorful office makes a home to few young rhetoricians, who gather here to exchange opinions, share ideas and improve their public speaking skills. However, they do not keep their knowledge and experience for themselves only, but organize trainings in public speaking to spread the love for the rhetoric to their peers and high school students. At the annual oratory competition organized at the Faculty of Law in Skopje, they present their speeches to the wider audience, together with other students from Ss. Cyril and Methodius University. In March this year, the young enthusiasts set a special humanitarian event “A Night of Oration“, where they made a retrospective of the speeches by their members who marked the last 15 years in Macedonia and furthermore announced a Balkan competition in public speaking in very near future. For the magic of the public speaking and his experience as a young leader of a non-profit organization, we talked with Borjan Topukovski, president of Forum Oratores.
M!: Can you tell us something more about the beginnings of Forum Oratores? Who initiated the organization and how did it develop?
Borjan: The Club for Rhetoricians, Forum Oratores, is the only certified organization in the country that works on public speaking and rhetoric skills. The club was founded in 2001 by a group of young enthusiasts, participants of so-called “Night of Rhetors – Ivo Puhan” at the Faculty of Law “Iustinianus Primus” in Skopje. From its foundation until today, Forum Oratores has over 400 members, mostly university or high school students. In all these years, in the public speaking trainings and in our organizational activities, we have had numerous participants, who later have become leaders, media personalities and important people in the public life of the country!
M!: What is the main focus of Forum Oratores today? What are the activities and projects you are most proud of?
Borjan: We detect, stimulate, animate, promote and provide a training of future potential rhetoricians. Also we encourage our members to develop themselves further and boost their skills in public speaking, as well as we promote ethics in public speaking. Forum Oratores is a pioneer in developing individual speech styles. And with all of that, we affirm the young individuals within the social life. I am very proud of every single thing I have done for this organization. However, if I have to choose some of the projects I am particularly attached to, I would mention the public speaking training conducted for the Museum of Macedonian Struggle employees, the training in the Chamber of Commerce of Macedonia, as well as the International Forum, where we participate in the last three years and it is attended by students from the former Yugoslav countries. Nevertheless, in near future, I imagine Forum Oratores as a respectable international organization that connects young people throughout the Balkans and Europe through public speaking and rhetoric skills. The current generation of Forum Oratores is very close to achieving this goal, and I really hope that very soon everyone will be able to see the benefits of such an NGO in Macedonia and beyond.
M!: What makes Forum Oratores unique? What do you think, why people join your organization?
Borjan: What we offer to our members, is to master the techniques of public speaking and therefore, to be more successful in their profession. Here, except how to be a good speaker, you will also get to learn how to cope with stage fright; how to improve your enunciation and diction; how to develop your writing skills and organize your speeches, theses or essays; as well as how to show your best in the CV and present yourself for a job interview. But most importantly, in Forum Oratores you will meet young people who think out loud, speak openly and strive for success. You will see the most ambitious and motivated young people at our meetings! Our enthusiasm is spread further at the Faculty of Law “Iustinianus Priumus“. That is Forum Oratores in few words.
M!: You mentioned that Forum Oratores promotes freedom of speech and provides skills and tools for public speaking. What is your opinion, what do actually people know about the art of public speaking in Macedonia? And for instance, how do you see the rhetoric used in the media environment?
Borjan: I am glad that in the last few years I see a positive trend and that young people want to learn the art of speaking. Every year, more and more young people are signing up for our public speaking trainings and enhance their rhetoric skills. Once being successful participants, later they can become trainers of such trainings. On the other hand, the media remains to be a challenge. Unfortunately, there is a lack of a programme in Macedonian production of good quality contents, which contributes negatively to the promotion of proper articulation and expression, but also to the use of the standard Macedonian language. Although lately there have been media individuals who are trying to move the things in right direction, this negative trend has been rapidly spread among younger generations already. It makes no surprise during the lectures at the faculty, to come across students who do not know how to express themselves properly, and the sad truth is that often there is nobody to teach them how to do so. Some of the professors are preoccupied with irrelevant things instead of asking themselves what they should really teach the students. Therefore, we are locked in a vicious circle of bad practices and, unfortunately, breaking this circle is very difficult.
M!: Being proactive in a non-governmental/grass-root organization means lot of devotion, engagement and a firm belief in the vision of the organization. How has volunteering changed your life?
Borjan: Forum Oratores for me and for most of the active members is not just a hobby or a job, but, more importantly, a way of life. I have worked on public speaking for more than seven years, and I am very proud when I see how our members being active less than a year, work with such dedication, passion, and enthusiasm. They show and prove that with persistent, honest and dedicated work, everything is possible. In this sense, I have to admit that Forum Oratores changed my life for the better. Anyone who has spent some time in our Club or at our trainings, will tell you that now they feel more confident when speaking in front of some audience and that they can express more bravely their views and opinions in public. When I had my first encounter with oratory and public speaking in high school, I never thought that today that would be such an important thing in my life. But through continuous exercises and time spent with my mentors and colleagues I realized how much I learn about myself and how much I have found myself in this field. After one year, whilst still in high school, few friends and I have established the first High school club for rhetoricians in Macedonia, “Guard of wisdom”. It is still active and develops constantly. When I enrolled at university, it was inevitably for me to join Forum Oratores. Now, I can say that for these past years I have matured alongside with the Club, and today as a president of this organization I am well aware how important is for every member to feel valued and satisfied. It is our idea for everyone to find and give the best out of themselves and everyone to be satisfied with their work. I assume we are managing to achieve that, and therefore, the success is inevitable and expected.