Overcoming the Fear: Public Speaking Competition

Glossophoboia, or the fear of public speaking is believed to affect about 75% of the population. Standing up and speaking in front of an audience of your peers can be very daunting. However, if we can conquer that fear, there is so much to gain from the art of public speaking.

Engaging in public speaking has numerous advantages, such as boosting confidence, improving communication and leadership skills, enhancing listening, reading, and writing abilities, and refining social aptitude, among others. It is an invaluable skill set that can benefit individuals in various aspects of their lives.

Fortunately, our students seem to be less concerned by the prospect of public speaking, as was evident during our annual Interhouse Public Speaking competition, with more than 250 students from Years 5 to Year 12 participating over two Pastoral Care Time sessions this term. Each session offered a range of topics from which the girls could choose based on their respective year groups:

Years 5 and 6:

  1. The significance of manners
  2. The inability of money to buy happiness
  3. Appropriate age for children to have mobile phones

Years 7 and 8:

  1. True wealth surpasses monetary possessions
  2. Excessive earnings of professional athletes
  3. Climate change as the paramount challenge facing humanity today

Years 9 and 10:

  1. The media’s influence on our thoughts and beliefs
  2. Should the voting age be raised?
  3. Is artificial intelligence ultimately a help or hindrance to society?

Years 11 and 12:

  1. Embracing laziness as a positive trait
  2. Success as an outcome of an exceptional tolerance for failure
  3. Should the fast-food industry be held accountable for obesity in society?

Students had the option to participate in two different categories. The Traditional Public Speaking category which allowed students to select a topic, write a persuasive speech, and deliver it within a time frame of approximately 2 minutes and 30 seconds to 3 minutes. The other category, the Spoken Word category, gave students the opportunity to recite poetry or prose for a duration of 60 to 90 seconds. The selection for this category was entirely open to the students’ preference, with most choosing poetry and occasional readings of song lyrics.

A panel of adjudicators, including the Deans of Year, Heads of Departments, alumni, and teaching staff, evaluated the speakers across the two sessions. Derek Smith, the competition coordinator, expressed his admiration for the overall quality of performances, stating, “I am constantly impressed at the high standard of the competition. All the students that participated should be commended for their hard work as they spoke in a way that engaged their audience and tackled a variety of issues in new and interesting ways. The two different categories give students an opportunity to express themselves both creatively and persuasively. Even though it is a House Competition, it is always very heart-warming to see the girls supporting and congratulating each other, creating a very safe environment where everyone can work on their public speaking skills.”

So, what did the students themselves think of this experience? Reflecting on the competition, Sophie McCarthy from Year 8 shared, “The competition provided an excellent platform to expand my knowledge on various subjects while developing the skills necessary for speaking confidently in front of an audience.” Emily Howard, a Year 11 student, expressed her appreciation for the Spoken Word category, saying, “I felt that the competition allowed me to step out of my comfort zone and showcase a dramatic side of myself that I don’t typically get to express.”

We eagerly await the announcement of the competition results, which will take place in Term 3. Be sure to stay tuned for the updates.

Below is a poem superbly written and delivered in the Spoken Word category by Year 9 student Elizabeth Harris.

The Crimson Rose

She was a sign of beauty
The epitome of grace
The world stopped for her
As she was in no bounding pace 

Her diffidence runs deep
Harsh and burning upon her
The strong stems of vanity
Running deep with yonder 

Her roots run shallow
Holding her unsteady
She will be plucked
A flower in the ready

She was loved by gardeners
Timid and quiet
Not invading the space of the grass
But she was forever tired

Tired of the façade
The prim, pretty veil
That showed her as weak
Small and frail

But that’s what they wanted
Something easy to use
Easy to cut
And easy to bruise

The world took her for granted
So, to the highest bidder
She was sold as if nothing
So, society undid her

Undid her pretty petals
Her rich dark eyes
The tatters of a flower
That now only cries

Cries for her future
Cries for her past
Cries for not being good enough
For not being grass

So then she decided
She had enough
If she couldn’t be a flower
Then she would be tough

She grew thorns instead of petals
She told the truth instead of bluff

So, now when you walk in your garden
See the tulips and daisy’s
All in perfect pose
Then your eyes land on
The dark crimson rose

She was a sign of strength
The epitome of power
I want the world to know
We are not just pretty flowers

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