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The art of speaking up: Festival of Speech

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Speaking and presentation skills are highly sought after by employers. The 22 Wenona students who competed at the Festival of Speech at Brigidine College recently made an overwhelmingly positive impression, with their critical thinking, presentation and oratory skills!

In an age saturated by social media, it has never been more important (or difficult) to be heard. Since its inception in 1996, the Australian Heads of Independent Girls’ Schools (AHIGS) Festival of Speech has been helping Wenona students from Years 7 to 11 to improve their ability to win over an audience.

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The competition incorporates sections on drama, debating, poetry, prose readings, current affairs, and religious and ethical questions. In order to research and prepare for their chosen section, the Wenona team met once a week for several months, with Wenona Festival of Speech Coordinator, Ms Bodycott on hand to provide expert guidance and advice.

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Mya, Isabella and Isobel (Year 11) entered the Current Affairs section of the competition. Modelled on the television program Q&A, this section takes the form of a discussion on a topical issue. In the lead up to the competition, the girls researched topics of national importance and learnt how to form a coherent argument and, importantly, how to think on their feet.

Meera (Year 9) and Sophie (Year 10) participated in the Junior and Senior Readings, while Esha (Year 7) and Eleanor (Year 10) took part in the Junior and Senior Poetry.

Eleanor said, “The poetry section encompassed two sections. In Section 1, I had to recite a poem from memory fitting with the theme ‘mythology’, and in Section 2, I was given a poem to look over for two minutes before presenting it. I had to do both of them in front of an audience. I had never done anything like Festival of Speech before and I really enjoyed having an opportunity to take part. It helped me to build my public speaking skills and as it was a new experience, it took me out of my comfort zone.

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For the Junior and Senior Public Speaking section, Paris (Year 9) and Jasmin (Year 10) had to deliver a prepared speech from set topics, as well as an impromptu speech on a topic provided 5 minutes before delivery for Juniors and 3 minutes before delivery for Seniors. Again, the girls kept their cool and delivered their speeches with great poise. And Charlotte, Lily, Imogen, Josie and Claudia (Year 11) demonstrated great dramatic flair in the Drama section of the competition.

The Junior Debating team consisted of Grace, Miranda, Kyla and Kate (Year 8) and the Senior Debating team consisted of Lucinda, Zara, Natalie and China (Year 10). Both teams quickly developed the critical thinking skills needed to formulate an argument, and learnt how to marshal evidence and how to predict and counter opposing arguments verbally. Both teams performed well under pressure.

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“I am so proud of the girls, in particular, their hard work and enthusiasm leading up to the Festival of Speech,” said Ms Bodycott. “Over the two days of the competition, I received great feedback on how polite, kind and polished they were. They were excellent ambassadors for Wenona and a standout in all categories.”

Whether it’s applying for a job or applying to university, it’s not just what you put on paper that counts. It’s how you present yourself too. Festival of Speech helps develop confidence and articulacy and has made a real difference to the students who took part this year.

The students were overwhelmingly positive about the experience. “Overall, I would recommend Festival of Speech to anyone who is passionate about public speaking or anyone who wants to improve upon their skills in this area,” said Eleanor. “I had a really fun time and enjoyed it thoroughly.”

A huge thank you to Ms Bodycott for all her hard work and support with this event.