By Jasmin Abdulaziz
Some people become anxious at the mere thought of speaking in public and squirm in their seats hoping their names won’t be called.
But for others, like UC Santa Barbara student Zeina Safadi, it seems to come quite naturally–especially after cultivating the art of public speaking since childhood.
Whether it is presenting for a class project, holding a Mock Trial meeting, or speaking to clients at a law firm, the third-year student majoring in political science and minoring in writing is accustomed to the crucial role public speaking plays in her life, and she has worked hard to get her skills to this point.
As Safadi works towards graduation and a future career in law, she balances four extracurriculars and jobs: undergraduate peer advisor, Mock Trial president, legal assistant at the law offices of Robert B. Locke, and attorney general at UC Santa Barbara. With an impressive resume and a facility for public speaking, Safadi spoke enthusiastically in a recent interview about the ways public speaking plays a key role in her life.
Q. Your activities and jobs all include public speaking. Is public speaking something you have always had an interest in or did you decide to pursue it to further the career you have chosen?
A. At a very young age I was always heavily involved in public speaking, since I realized that I preferred the arts and English over math. In the first grade, I started in theater and the shows developed my comfort with and love for public speaking. Around the same time that I began theater, I watched the movie Legally Blonde. This inspired me to explore law as a potential career option. Understandably, law and public speaking are closely intertwined and so I took it upon myself to cultivate my skills by joining Mock Trial and becoming attorney general. Ultimately, I would say I was fortunate to be naturally comfortable at public speaking and I built upon that comfort to bring me to my career choice.
Q. You have juggled four jobs: an undergraduate peer advisor, Mock Trial president, legal assistant, and attorney general at UCSB. What in your life and your current jobs now requires you to do the most public speaking?
A. I have been heavily involved in Mock Trial for the past couple of years. Just for clarification, Mock Trial is an imitation trial where you argue a prosecution and defense. That makes up the majority of my public speaking time. Following that, my job as attorney general requires me to present, argue and interpret legal code in front of [the student] senate often. Public speaking is also a big part of day-to-day activities, from participating in lectures to interacting with clients at my law firm.
Q. You have attended countless mock trials and have spoken in front of small and large crowds. Did you anticipate how much you would be speaking in front of a crowd?
A. I always kind of knew I wanted to do something with public speaking as I grew older so I fulfilled my own prophecy with that. In other words, I knew I wanted to do it so I acted on it, ensuring that it was a constant in my life. I underestimated how much I would be speaking in front of crowds but hey, here we are, and the more, the better.
Q. Did the public speaking aspect of your career choice ever intimidate you?
A. I would be lying if I say it didn’t. Even with competing in Mock Trial and acting as Attorney General, I have spoken in front of crowds countless times but each time I still get a little nervous before. Nevertheless, when I get up there and start, all my anxiety turns into a flow and I realize why I love it so much.
Q. You mentioned earlier that you were naturally comfortable with public speaking. Can you tell us more about that? Is it something you have worked on throughout the years?
A. Persistence trumps talent every time. By that I mean yes, I feel as though it was something I naturally had, but that fact alone doesn’t make someone good at public speaking. I have practiced speeches, presentations and statements for so many hours that you wouldn’t believe it. The fear is rooted in embarrassing yourself when you’re up there. I would say it was a combination of both.
Q. Knowing what you do now, what would you say is the importance of the ability to speak publicly in the field of law?
A. My professions now require it mainly to interact with individuals and communicate in a comfortable and confident way where your words aren’t deemed awkward and ambiguous. In my future profession of law, it is extremely important for networking and interacting with clients and presenting cases in trial. If I can’t publicly speak, I can’t even make it through law school since they cold call in class all of the time.
Q. What about the importance of public speaking in any other career?
A. Public speaking is arguably one of the most significant and impactful skills one can acquire and cultivate for any profession. The ability to speak confidently and be personable and interact with coworkers, clients, or superiors will do nothing but benefit one in any profession.
Jasmin Abdulaziz is a third-year student at UC Santa Barbara majoring in Communication and pursuing a minor in Professional Writing.