Silvia Agha-Schantl studied Media and Communication in Klagenfurt. Today she is in great demand as business trainer, moderator and keynote speaker for international companies at home and abroad.
Ms. Agha-Schantl, which aspect of your studies do you remember fondly?
The student life at the beautiful Wörthersee was really unique! I remember great conversations, internships and Günther Stotz, who always had time for a conversation and was a picture of calm. He was my mentor, colleague and source of inspiration all in one. I was able to talk to him about the status of my thesis as well as philosophise about life. I really appreciated this access to the professors.
You moved from Styria to Klagenfurt all by yourself at the age of 16. How did this come about?
I spontaneously imagined that I wanted to become an actress. After passing my entrance exams at the Odeon Acting School, my parents from Graz supported me. At that time, I lived in a little garconniere opposite the Stadttheater. All of a sudden, I was on my own. In the morning I visited the BORG Klagenfurt, and in the afternoon I went to acting classes for four years until I graduated as an actress. When I finished grammar school, I started studying at the University of Klagenfurt.
What were your motivation for studying at AAU?
On the one hand, my mother with her demand: “We will only support you if you also study something smart! And after I had already gained a lot of practice on stage at that time, I wanted to get to know the theory behind it even better. My choice turned out to be a good decision, because the University of Klagenfurt laid the foundation for my future path.
Your work as a presenter, speaker and business trainer?
That is right, I submitted my first concept for a class at the Institute for German Studies at the age of 22. And suddenly everything happened very quickly, and I started teaching my courses “Professional Appearance” and “Voice, Speech and Breathing Techniques” at the University of Klagenfurt, and later also at the University of Salzburg. That was my entry into business life. My students were often older than me! My courses were booked out so quickly that there were always additional events.
From student to lecturer. What was that feeling?
A funny one, I have got the jitters and asked myself what gave me the right to teach.
Did you find an answer to this question?
Yes, because I noticed in a flash that the students achieve a multiple of the effect through the training and my tips. They were more confident, could speak more clearly and knew what they needed to emphasise, and reached their audience much more efficiently. And then I knew: That is my justification. That is what I want to become when I am older.
How do you reach people?
This requires three components: firstly, winning body language. Secondly, targeted voice leading, and thirdly, rhetoric. In every position, formerly as an actress, today as a presenter and business trainer or at a keynote speech in front of 500 people, I know exactly how to behave and speak, what I have to say to reach the audience. My advantage is that for me the more viewers, the better.
How does it feel to speak in front of so many people?
It is addictive and feels heavenly.
In 2011 in New York, you received the Times Square Award in the category “Best Lead Actress”. What did this award mean to you?
It officially confirmed to me on Times Square that I can act. However, I did not want to make a living out of it and concentrated on developing into a presenter, business trainer and lecturer. In the meantime, I am looking forward to my new task as Vice President Austria of the German Speakers Association.
What advice would you give to today’s students?
I have done many internships and met people in the most impossible situations who were important for my current career. I would also advise every student to spend a semester abroad. I regret that I never went abroad, that would have been the icing on the cake.
The University of Klagenfurt is turning 50. What do you wish for the university for the next 50 years?
I wish that the university will remain such a great, inspiring place to meet and that it will continue to be openminded about the offers for students and alumni. I would also like to contribute to this: With my involvement in job shadowing and a planned training for students and alumni, I would like to make a contribution to this.