Jon Briggs, the Voice of Siri and IPSC guest judge 2019, argues that self-belief is the key to turning public speaking from a trial to a thrill
As part of the generation that was educated using Latin verbs, bunsen burners and cross-country runs, more reminiscent of Molesworth or Jennings and Darbishire (look them up – they’re as good as any Harry Potter) than today’s hi-tech classrooms, the closest I came to speaking in public was the school play.
I was a child with a naturally clear voice, so I was cast in many of these productions. From the judge in Toad of Toad Hall to Theseus in A Midsummer Night’s Dream by way of Max Frisch’s The Fire Raisers. It wasn’t because I had much talent as an actor, but simply because I could be heard at the back of the school hall, and the audience (consisting mostly of tolerant parents) had some chance of following the plot as a result. It may have been an act of vanity as opposed to great oratory, but it removed my fear of finding my own voice. I have spent many hours since coaching business men and women to find theirs, because they didn’t take such opportunities when they were younger.
It is worth remembering that in this modern age, the scarcest resources are our time and attention. When standing in front of people to speak them, whether there are 8 or 800 people, they have given of those resources freely, with the intention that they will benefit from your words. It is only your own self-worth that is preventing you from seizing this chance, and your own inner demons that have turned an opportunity into a trial.
Believe that you should be heard. Trust your voice. It is the most powerful instrument you will ever play, and no matter what you do, be it brain surgery, space flight navigation, repairing the roads or caring for others, you have earned the right to be heard.
The International Public Speaking Competition 2019 will take place at the Royal Institution, London, on Friday, 17 May from 1pm. If you would like to attend, please book your ticket here. School staff can contact William.firstname.lastname@example.org for more information and can reserve up to 20 free places per school.