It’s timely that I now reflect on the various student speech competitions I have been involved in as a coach this year. All the students did well but after all, for anyone to stand up to talk to a judging audience is worth applauding, no matter what stage of the competition they reached.

They all got past their own school competitions, progressed past the semifinal/divisional level, and presented well at various State Finals.

All the competitions were online – except for the internal school competitions stage – and the online experience added a different dimension to the event. As it has for all of our experiences.

The overriding winning feature that I can see across all students who did well was related to tone. The right use of tone.

It can be a default position to work on a topic that the speaker feels passionate about and emotionally present the speech. The trouble is passion manifests itself into a style of pleading, which turns into demanding, lecturing and even a sense of badgering the audience. I suppose students have seen that with the likes of Greta Thunberg, for instance, and feel that a demanding tone is the right way to express passion. It may be, but the feedback typically emerging from most student competitions I’ve seen has been that the winner hit on the right tone.

I can see that the winners were mild in their presentations and calm in their manner. Their passion was shared in the words, but the words only. Passion emerged in logic and rhetoric. They didn’t overlay the content with a tone that put off the audience.

Regardless, any student that puts themselves forward to be the person standing at the front of an audience is a star. It helps them stand out from any crowd of colleagues in the workplace and does their profile no damage at all. The learning in doing this over and over carries over to whatever career they progress on to.