The College of Public Speaking held the finals of their Corporate Speaker of the Year award at the English Speaking Union in Charles Street, Mayfair. A very English Georgian venue with an appropriate portrait in the bar of Emma Hamilton in one of her Attitudes. The theme for this year’s speakers was therefore apt for this setting:
“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life from what we give.” Winston Churchill
A fascinating theme and appropriate for our time, which is again back to the wall austerity. There were among the gifted speakers: Jason Ashwood, Andrew Chuks, Shaughan Dolan, Anthony Gell, David Jones, Phillip Khan-Panni, James Milton, Robert Noble, Mike Robinson and Dorothea Stuart, a plethora of interpretations. I particularly liked the dichotomy used by Dorothea Stuart of influence and reciprocation and her final sung words: “in the end, the love we take is equal to the love we make”. Her speech was witty and amusing delivered with an excellent clarity of diction in line with her subject. Robert Noble also gave an intelligent, moving and witty speech about leaving your ego at home when you go to work. He had lots of enthusiasm but hadn’t had a vocal warm up, which is guaranteed to flatten most voices. David Jones has a great presence and sailed in filling the stage talking about how he was caught up in the Ealing riots and landed second prize. The third prize went to Jason Ashwood who was charming in his delivery in a speech about the commemorative poppy. First prize went to Andrew Chuks who gave a brave rendition of what it felt like to be made redundant and how he decided to form his own company, Out of all the speakers, Andrew’s was the most dramatic, with long pauses as he looked at his audience to let his words have deeper meaning and he used movement to emulate climbing a mountain and battling his way through his feelings. In the end it was down to the interpretation of the theme words.
I have always understood that Public Speaking and Presentations are radically different. The skills required are in the most part quite different. In a nutshell presenting is so much easier, however, the College of Public Speaking Corporate Challenge is an innovation to promote and encourage communication excellence in the business world and here the cross-over with Presentation occurs.
Popular TV programmes like The Apprentice and The Dragons’ Den underline the need for excellent presentation skills. How many times have prospective entrepreneurs faltered at the first hurdle of their sales pitch? We know that these problems can be resolved with supportive guidance, structure and practice.
This contest is a marvellous opportunity for individuals to develop themselves in a friendly, supportive and pressurised environment. Speech contests emulate the rigours of a tough business world where millions of pounds can be won and lost on one strong presentation. It’s also a development opportunity for contestants and companies alike.
So you can understand that with judges including Chris Bates who was runner up in the Apprentice series, the judges were going to go for something more like a motivational Presentation than a Public Speech.
In all the speakers but 2, I was surprised by the low quality vocal profile. Why is it that people keep harping on about projection? It seems it is the only thing that many public speakers are concerned about. The word projectile conjures up an image of something being hurled. This is not how the voice operates. Overall release will give the speaker amazing power to be heard without having to “project”.