Present…Persuade…Lift Your Voice! Year 8 Public Speaking Morning
On January 17th the whole of Year 8 took part in a Public Speaking Morning led by our Public Speaking Co-Ordinator, Miss Gordon. The aim of the morning was to help students speak out without freaking out, so they feel more confident when speaking to an audience and to show how through public speaking you can capture hearts and change minds.
Miss Gordon emphasised how each of us has valuable opinions and ideas to share, but if we let our nerves stop us, then not only we will miss out on giving our views, but so too will other people, be it or class or society as a whole. So consequently, the world will miss out on hearing valuable, diverse voices.
Sitting in groups of 6, students discussed what holds people back in different situations, whether it is answering questions in class, introducing a speaker, asking a question or networking or meeting unfamiliar people.
Miss Gordon encouraged everyone to re-frame their nerves to help build confidence and gave some tips to manage nerves by using tactics like taking a deep breath, holding something cold (eg your pen), making grand gestures, moving around and being succinct. She acknowledged that it can feel difficult to ‘get rid of’ nerves, but maybe you can use them to help you. The nerves can actually give us energy, adrenalin, and tell us that what we are doing is important – whether it is making an important point, or suggestion, or helping us grow and progress in our communication skills plus self-confidence. Giving yourself permission to feel nervous also gives you a sense of agency.
The Year 8s were then challenged in groups to come up with a six minute presentation in which every member had to participate for around a minute, without scripts or powerpoint slides, using basic prompt cards. They were also encouraged to support their team members when they were not actually speaking themselves by using positive body language. Important points to consider when working together included the all-important hook – how to ‘grab’ your audience’s attention, engage you in the topic right from beginning; the different voices of speakers and writers, the ability to persuade, what makes an effective presentation, how to create a sense of togetherness and engagement with your audience and pace and clarity, not to mention the power of the pause! They practised a range of rather silly but fun body and vocal warm-ups!
Students chose from a range of topics for their presentations, including:
- The greatest challenge currently facing the world is…
- All single use plastic should be banned.
- Voluntary work should be compulsory.
- There is still magic in the world.
- Peaceful protest is the best way to evoke change.
- Drones are a menace to society!
- Do school uniforms make school a more effective place to learn?
- Free tickets should be used to promote female sport.
- The arts have become the elitist preserve of the rich.
- Songwriters have more relevance than Shakespeare.
- Comedians should have to apologise for their jokes.
In the next exercise in pairs, students practised describing something they enjoyed doing in their spare time, while thinking about their movement, body language, facial expression during their task.
After delivering their presentations, the students filled in a reflect card with top tips and what they’d like to continue to develop. They each have a personalised card that will help them continue to work with Miss Gordon and also the English Department, in honing skills for future English Language Speaking Components.
A key message from the morning was that there is no one ‘right’ way to communicate: communication is not a performance. It is a conversation where you can ask questions – it’s talking, rather than a ‘speech.’ It’s not about performing or trying to be someone else, it’s about honing what you already have within you and playing to your character strengths: ‘practice makes progress, not perfect.’