When I decided to go on the Jack Petchey “Speak Out” training day I wasn’t sure what it would be like. I’ve always been quite shy when it comes to talking to large crowds, but I wanted to change that. So, I went to school that day with an uncomfortable ball of excitement and nervousness writhing in my stomach. But, with the help and support of my class mates and the JP Foundation member I found myself doing things I never would’ve thought I had the stomach for. Improvising a speech on the spot, learning what makes a good speech, helping others with their speeches, even writing my own speech! I chose to write a speech on bees. Choosing to write a speech on this might seem a little strange, but I wanted to convey to people how truly important bees are and to present them with an issue that could be tackled and solved. I had the new-found confidence to volunteer in being one of the first to read my speech out. Up there, in front of everyone, my confidence slipped a little, however, I kept going and soon I was enjoying the moment. As my speech ended and I sat back down, pride, joy and relief (that I had done my speech justice) beaconed through me. For the rest of the afternoon I got to see the rest of my class mates perform their speeches. It was amazing seeing people I knew well, and people I didn’t, going up and talking about a topic they felt strongly about, there was something eminently human to it. We all clapped, cheered and praised each other.
Soon everyone had performed and it was time to see who had got through to the next round. With so many diverse and intriguing topics I doubted my chances at going through. So, when I was called I was shocked, scared, but, also exhilarated, eager and elated. As the day drew to a close, I realised that I had learnt something, not just about giving speeches, but also about myself and my fellow students.
On the night of the Jack Petchey regional finals, I arrived early, after having been terrified for the entire day that I would arrive late. I was greeted by a room full of other students just like me, which was strangely comforting. Once everyone had arrived, we began to go through the beginnings and endings of our speeches, with a helpful Jack Petchey Trainer giving us advice on how to improve them. I was, admittedly, surprised by how friendly and encouraging everyone was of one another. Quickly, I found myself making friends, after all we were all in a similar situation.
We did a short run through of what we would do and then nibbled nervously at some food. Then it was time, we were ushered back to the hall and we sat there murmuring to one another and reciting our speeches. It was great to see both my parents and my English teacher there in the audience, it made me even more determined to perform my speech perfectly, like I knew I could.
The Regional Finals began with both the Mayor of London and a member of the JP Foundation giving speeches about the event. After, the judges, in turn, stood up and told us what they were looking for. Then, one by one, the other finalists were called up. Watching them really showed how much talent Bexley has, they were all so calm, clear and you could tell their chosen topic was important to them. Finally, it was my turn. Stiffly, I stood up and walked over to have my microphone attached, my anxiety eating away at me. But, then the break was announced. I felt confusion and relief wash over me, before it was announced that that was mistake. It really was my turn. So, striding boldly as possible, I made my way to the stage. For a few seconds I just stood there. The blinding yellow stage lights were beating down on me, the audience were staring expectantly at me. Taking a deep breath, I stepped forwards and started my speech. Words flowed out of my mouth, I think I exuded confidence, because the tension and terror faded away, mist on the breeze. When it was over I walked calmly from the stage, filled with an empowering sense of self-confidence. Having finished my own speech, I relaxed and enjoyed the other speeches, marvelling at the clever ways they presented their topics. Truthfully, I was a bit disappointed I didn’t win, for myself, my parents and
the school, but, all the participants deserved to have won, we all tried so hard. That night I went away with something better than a prize or a trophy, I went away with a strong sense of pride and self-assurance and the knowledge that I could indeed do public speaking now.
Written by Katherine.