JCI UK – Public Speaking Academy 2018 – Review

JCI UK – Public Speaking Academy 2018 – Review

May 18, 2018 4:25 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

Last weekend, we hosted our annual Public Speaking Academy. The goals for the academy is to support our delegates in taking their speaking skills to the next level, regardless of their current skill set. It’s open to newbies, especially those who are quite confident but could do with brushing up a little.

We’re thrilled to share a recent delegate’s story about her first-hand experience at a JCI UK Academy. So, let’s hand the blog over to Alisa from JCI Cambridge!


I woke up at 6.00 am on Saturday the 12th of May to the beginning of what ended up being one of the most intense experiences I have had in a while; I was about to attend the JCI Public Speaking Academy.

If you’re anything like the majority of people, you will at this point ask: ‘Who in their right mind would give up their weekend to do a public speaking course?’ But if you’re a JCI member, you get it: personal development is one of the things that drives us. If we don’t grow we feel uncomfortable, much more uncomfortable than speaking in front of an unknown audience. So here I was, ready to rock and roll. More rolling than rocking actually, but I will get to that shortly.

The Public Speaking Academy is a 2 day course that will take you from mumbling your way through a speech (sweating and doing awkward gestures with your trembling hands, whilst no one can hear a word of what you are saying) to confidently delivering a discourse that will inspire your audience. Does that sound too good to be true? It did to me on Saturday morning. After all, how much can a person improve in 48 hours? A LOT, as it turned out.

I wasn’t a bad public speaker before the course. OK, I wasn’t extraordinary but I wasn’t terrible either. Content writing and structure have always been 2 of my strengths and I chose a subject that I am very familiar with for my speech. However, I quickly learned that regardless of how great/powerful/inspiring a message is, the way we deliver it will either lift it further and impact the audience, or dissipate the message into a pile of words that have no effect at best – and annoy the audience at worst.

Remember the rocking and rolling I mentioned earlier? There was a lot of that. Our 2 amazing trainers, Ilona Alcock and Sarah Beckwith, were rocking the house with their knowledge and enthusiasm and I was rolling over and playing dead. There were so many things that we covered in the 2 days: content, structure, storytelling, body language, voice projection and stage craft to name just a few. There were times when I thought, ‘How am I going to be able to incorporate all this?’

Thinking about it in hindsight, I realise that I was my biggest obstacle and I needed to get out of my own way. Luckily, I had a breakthrough moment. We were rehearsing voice projection and intonation and we practiced some famous speeches. I chose Chief Joseph’s ‘Surrender Speech’ (1877) and I was so moved by my own emotion in interpreting it that I started crying on stage. Yes, crying. I allowed myself to be vulnerable and actually feel the message of the speech and what I wanted my audience to perceive. By this point I was already quite tired and I just let myself go. I got out of my own way.

From this moment on it started going uphill. I relaxed and approached the task from a different angle. I allowed myself to bring my own emotions on stage and share them with the audience. Needless to say, it was well received. My final speech was infinitely better than the first version, although in terms of content I did not make significant changes. The changes happened within me: the way I thought about speaking in public, the confidence I had while standing on stage, knowing that I can keep the audience’s attention and convey a message that will touch people.

There are definitely things that I still need to work on. I am a naturally soft-spoken person and voice projection is something I find difficult. But overall I am extremely pleased with my progress. I might not be competition material yet, but I know that I am able to confidently deliver a 5 minute speech that will convey a message in a meaningful way. Not only thanks to the many tools and techniques I learned on the course – although they are extremely helpful – but because of what I learned about myself.

For those of you wondering about attending the Public Speaking Academy in the future, do it! It will challenge you in many ways but it is worth it because you will get to know yourself better and that is a great gift. Who knows what wonders you will discover within you?

“Oscar” selfie of the Public Speaking Academy Delegates 2018


Inspired, moved or amazed by Alisa’s story? Find out more about our 2 remaining 2018 academies, LEAP (Leadership Excellence in Action Programme) and Marketing Academy, by emailing our Personal Development Director, Cheryl Hill: cheryl.hill@jciuk.org.uk.

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This post was written by Cheryl Hill Hill

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