Free six-week speaking workshop to strengthen Perry business community

Erik Dominquez, a professional storytelling coach and owner of Speak Up Stories, will teach a free six-week course from April 20 through May 25.

PERRY – What began as an artist-in-residence project with the Perry nonprofit Art on the Prairie has evolved into a chance for the Perry entrepreneurial community to engage in a unique and free six-week speaking workshop to build public speaking skills and boost confidence in the corporate world.

Erik Dominquez, a professional storytelling coach and owner of Speak Up Stories, will teach a free six-week course that meets for one hour via Zoom each Tuesday from 12-1 p.m. starting on April 20 and culminating on May 25. This opportunity is open to the public and anyone 18 or over may register to participate by emailing by April 26.

“Although the course has just started, Erik is eager to ensure anyone who joins prior to the second week is brought up to speed and can hit the ground running,” said Akwi Nji, Artistic Director for We the Many in Perry.

This opportunity is one of several community-focused initiatives through the Perry nonprofit Art on the Prairie which was awarded a highly competitive grant of $45,000 in 2019 from Arts Midwest, as part of a program called “We the Many,” which aims to expand how people understand what it means to be Midwestern.

The artist-in-residence programming has evolved since the grant was awarded prior to the COVID 19 pandemic, due to the significant restrictions to live events and in-person gatherings. As Art on the Prairie has worked to navigate through the uncertainty and reimagine how to reinvest into the community, it became clear that the workshops with Dominquez could be especially beneficial to the professional community.

“This is truly a professional development opportunity that would normally cost a participant over a thousand dollars,” said Nji. “The artist-in-residence project with Erik has evolved in significant ways due to the pandemic and we’re eager to provide this valuable opportunity to the Perry community that is so strengthened by its multi-generational and multi-heritage entrepreneurial spirit.”

The focus on the entrepreneurial spirit and the impact of stories and public speaking to connect with others in powerful ways and impact human behavior is at the nucleus of Dominguez’s work with Speak Up Stories which was founded “to inspire, educate and coach individuals, teams and companies to cultivate a culture of powerful public speaking and storytelling,” according to the Speak Up Stories website.

The six-week spring course is a culmination of several opportunities facilitated by Dominquez as the artist-in-residence for We the Many in Perry. Participants have experienced a noticeable boost in confidence and valuable application of the skills and techniques taught by Dominquez in the workplace.

“My employer strongly encourages us to set annual professional development goals to further our individual skillsets,” said Bethany Wicks, who participated in the first course. “The workshops were valuable for me as it taught me ways to make my verbal communication more effective. I enjoyed how the structure of the workshops focused on looking inward to understand how emotions and feelings play a significant role in communicating.”