Creating change through public speaking

6 June 2023

On Thursday 4 May, The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan hosted a special event at City Hall to mark the Coronation of Their Majesties King Charles III and Queen Camilla. #iwill Ambassadors, Gabby and Molly, spoke at the event to mark this occasion and champion the power of youth.

After they delivered their inspiring poem, they shared some advice on public speaking and how it can lead to social change.

When you are public speaking do you ever feel nervous? Did you feel nervous at this event?

[Gabby] I do get nervous, but not always and I can never tell when I’m going to be nervous or not.

So today when I arrived today and we were talking, we both felt really comfortable but once I was actually up there, I did start to feel really nervous and really shaky.

But I think grounding myself in the space, having someone you are comfortable looking at in the crowd. You know who will be a friendly, smiley face. So like today Deborah (a member of the #iwill Movement team), and also physical things like positioning, so I get shaky when I’m nervous, so as I was speaking I could feel myself kind of getting shaky, so breathing and grounding.

So I put my hand on the lectern so it’s like on a stable surface to stop me shaking so that was really

[Molly] Just to add to that, it’s natural to feel nervous, it’s literally our body telling us that they’re scared, that we’re nervous but it’s ok we can breathe through it. I mean today when I was on the podium like my hands were sweaty and I could feel it and I lifted my hand up and it was all sweaty and I was like oh no but then just breathing… it really helps so that’s great advice.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to practice public speaking?

[Molly] So I’m going to go for the 3 P’s. Practice, No Pressure and Public Speaking.

I think you never practice enough. Even just a run through with a friend. Or a video call like we did yesterday, Or just ringing up a family friend and face timing. Or even just in your bedroom by yourself.

Pressure it’s important that you just be yourself. And that you know that no one is judging you. And if they do, that’s okay. You’re there, in the space, the whole space and you deserve it so seize these opportunities and you’ll become a professional public speaker.

[GABBY] Public speaking doesn’t have to be at events like this. It can start with online content and videos. Because that is public and you’re speaking to an audience and then build up to being in a room with an audience, because that can be a lot more daunting.

There is a big jump to having thoughts and then being able to articulate them in a story that people can follow and engage with.  So you’ll always get asked when you are at events how did you come into volunteering or what is your journey. So if you’re confident with the story of that, ‘oh this is how I got into volunteering’ then you’re kind of warmed up. It’s like what’s my name, what is my volunteering story and then they can move into the complex parts and I think if you’re really clear on what you’re gonna say there, it just makes it a lot easier and also practice writing down your thoughts, because it’s quite hard often to translate what you’re saying into words so if you have practice writing, I think it really helps your speaking

[Molly] Maybe there is a 4th P – Passion

What was your first experience of public speaking?

[Molly] Well it was quite a long time ago now. I have been doing volunteering for 10 years so my first public speaking was probably when I was doing an assembly when I was at school. Just setting up a small mental health awareness week assembly in front of 100-200 students and doing that regularly really helps and that was probably my first experience.

How can public speaking help to achieve social change?

[Gabby] I think most social change is just about articulating the message of what you’re trying to say and change. Public speaking is a really easy way for you to be able to get your message out to people and also have a platform and the space where they kind of, have to listen to you in a way that once you’ve got that platform.

You can use it however you want and also I don’t think it has to be formal public speaking like we just did at an event. For example, rallies or assemblies which are a bit more informal. Or even just small groups, I think anywhere where you talk to lots of people is public speaking

How do you normally prepare

[Molly] So, I did my first professional public speaking only just a few months ago, so I would say that time is essence, definitely plan ahead.

Make an outline of a speech and make sure every point is reiterating something you want to get across to the audience. So write that out and then also ask people for feedback, you know if you have a family member, a friend or someone that is willing to support you, then ask them, read through it out loud especially and then be open to change it. Like for this event, we created a poem and at first it was great but we also needed to add something on and just being willing to do that, It made it even better and today has been really successful.

What advice would you give a young person wanting to do more public speaking?

[Molly] I would say practice, practice, practice and don’t put too pressure on yourself. All the P’s, practice public speaking, don’t put pressure on yourself, just be you, breathe again and just say yes to these opportunities otherwise you’re not going to ever do It and it’s always just great to start and if you don’t like it, it’s ok, you don’t have to, but yeah

[Gabby] I think writing can really help. So writing down a story for yourself, not even for public speaking, so you can get used to putting your thoughts in a way other people can hear. So if someone asks you how your volunteering journey started – practice that really simple question cause you know you’ll always be asked it so then when you start public speaking you’re starting with a safe, easy question that you’re just going to be able to say really easily.

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