On the 8th and 11th of February, students from our school were selected to take part in the Jack Petchey “Speak Out” challenge. This was a workshop designed by the Speaker’s Trust, to help people learn about public speaking.

We arrived at our school library and sat in a semi-circle. The space in the middle was our stage, little did we know, that later that day we would be giving a speech to be judged. We began by learning a bit about everyone, like an ice-breaker, so we could get to know each other. It made us a bit more comfortable to be able to stand up in front.  Our workshop organiser was called Michael and he taught us all about public speaking. There are many jobs that involve public speaking, and some surprised us. We realised that no matter what we wanted to be when we were older, this opportunity would greatly benefit us.

He taught us how our posture, tone and gestures helped us to deliver the best speeches possible. We were told to use our hands to get our message across and help us emphasise certain points. It was important to project our voices and make eye-contact with the audience, so they could interact with the speech more, it was also good to get them to join in. With regards to writing the speeches he told us not to write out long speeches and stand there reading, as this wouldn’t let you deliver the speech well. Instead we should get our first line and last line ready, so we know how to begin and end our speech - the two most important parts. The middle was made up of notes that we put together on the spot. This was hard. As soon as we stood up we were overcome with stage fright, especially because we didn’t have notes to fall back on. 

We first practised it by writing a story from our memories, then we read them in groups. The person with the most interesting story (or the funniest) got chosen to retell it in front of the whole group. It was really good, as the feedback helped others to think about what they should do. However, it was really nerve-racking for the speakers. That’s when we were all told that we had to give speeches after lunch. And the worst part was - they were going to be judged! This sent us into chaos - people were crying, people were getting nervous and everyone was talking. We all felt a sudden wave of fear hit us, but we swallowed it and carried on.  We had around 3o minutes until lunch, so we began to prepare our speeches, writing out the first and last line, then figuring out what would happen in the middle. My speech was about stereotypes, in the media and in everyday life.

After lunch we had 10 minutes to make the finishing touches and go over our speeches in front of each other. Any nerves we had, we were determined not to show it. Everyone took their seats and the chairs were arranged in two lines, with the front as the stage. One by one we were introduced by Michael and then we said our speeches. At the end of each one we all clapped, and then once we had all finished, the two judges- our librarian and our head teacher, announced the winners. They went on to the semi-final where they had to speak in front of our entire year. The staff chose two candidates to go to the regional final and compete with other schools.

Though we didn’t all win, we learnt valuable skills that will help us in years to come. Now, when we do a job interview or have to give a speech, we’ll feel more confident and know how to deliver it in the best way possible.