Portadown College Public speakers competed in the inaugural BPW Inter-Regional Public Speaking Championship, hosted at The Maldron Hotel at the International Airport on Saturday 30th March. This event was kindly sponsored by Ulster Carpets; without whose generosity it could not have taken place. It involves teams from England and Wales and replaces the National Final previously hosted in Shropshire. Each team has already demonstrated their competitive edge by winning their respective local and regional heats.
The local team consisted of Joanna Kerr as Chairperson, Joshua Quinn, the Speaker (who on this occasion, addressed the topical issue of gun control in America) and Danielle Weir, Expresser of Thanks. Joanna won Best Chairperson. The team was runner-up and to mark this honour, was presented with a specially commissioned ceramic artwork, crafted by Judith Lockhart, from Newry.
This continues the College’s outstanding success in this competition, having won it outright in 2017 and Best Speaker in 2014. It also rounds off another successful year, with speakers having been awarded runner–up at the Soroptimist Public Speaking Competition and also at the Edgar Graham Memorial Public Speaking Competition. According to public speaking mentor and Head of English Mrs Montgomery, this is excellent motivation to work for a return to the top spot on the podium next year!
The competition takes the format of a meeting in miniature. The role of the Chairperson is to welcome everyone, put them at their ease, introduce the Speaker and manage the proceedings. The Speaker addresses the audience for 6 minutes on a topic of their choice and responds to two questions, one from a member of the audience, the other from the Chairperson. The Expresser of Thanks reflects on the speech on behalf of the audience and expresses their gratitude to the Speaker. This may sound straightforward but is complicated by the fact that each Speaker joins a Chairperson and Expresser of Thanks from a different team. This means they have to be quick thinking and calm under pressure as they adapt to a Speaker whom they have never met before and a topic unfamiliar to them beforehand. Similarly, the Speaker has to answer questions without having any idea of their content in advance, which demands real depth of knowledge, understanding and the ability to be articulate and spontaneous.