The keys to success: public speaking

We recently sat down with Matisse Reed, a young and incredibly successful public speaker, who has an impressive portfolio of achievements. She was named the 2017 National Winner for the Lions Youth of the Year competition,  national finalist in both Rostrum Voice of Youth and Plain English Speaking Award and won both the StuditaliA Prize and the Premier’s Anzac Prize.

Here’s what she had to say:

“Hi there!

My name is Matisse and I’m a Year 12 student from Cairns in Far North Queensland, Australia. In May this year, I had the privilege of being named the 2017 National Winner for the Lions Youth of the Year competition – a program which assesses students, like myself, on general knowledge, community, cultural and sporting achievements and above all, public speaking ability.

I’d like to share with you a little bit of my public speaking journey over the last five years.

I hope I can use my experiences to inspire other young people to reach their potential and making use of every opportunity possible for this, I believe, is the ultimate key to success.

I first began public speaking as a timid 11-year-old back in 2012, when my mother suggested I enter the Rostrum Voice of Youth public speaking competition for the first time. Needless to say, I wasn’t great. Like everything in life, I needed a great deal of practice. But I was lucky because I had stumbled across something that I genuinely loved. Over the next five years, this interest was to develop into a passion which has played a major role in my life.

National Winner, 2017. Credit: Matisse Reed

Since beginning high school five years ago, I have thrown myself into every public speaking opportunity possible. And let me tell you, I have stumbled a lot along the way. There have been countless times when I have put my heart and soul into a performance only to fall short of the mark. Public speaking can be a frustrating and, at times, subjective area to be involved in – but regardless of how many disappointments I’ve experienced, the thought of simply giving up has never seemed very appealing.

Earlier this year, I competed in the competition that saw the start of my public speaking career all those years ago – Rostrum Voice of Youth – as I have done every year since, for the very last time. To my great excitement, I won the Queensland State Final and progressed to the national level where I received Second Place in Australia. It was an incredibly fitting end to my journey with high school public speaking and, I hope, a testament to ‘sticking in there’.

But today, I want to focus on my involvement in the Lions Youth of the Year program; a competition which has had a profound impact on my life. Now, you may have heard of Youth of the Year. It’s a program, open to all Year 11 and 12 students in Australia, assessing applicants on qualities like personality, general knowledge, academic, cultural and sporting achievement, community involvement and of course, public speaking. At every level, participants are required to undergo a written application, an interview, a 5-minute prepared speech and two 2-minute impromptu speeches with absolutely no preparation time. It’s a pretty daunting experience for anyone – and despite having to progress through six rounds of the competition in order to reach national level, the nerves never faded! But I promise, it’s worth every moment.

National Finalists for Lions Youth of the Year, in Hobart, 2017. Credit: Matisse Reed

I remember how nervous I felt preparing to speak during my first round of competition, to a room of about fifty people. If you had told me, then, that two months later I would speak for four minutes ‘off the top of my head’ to an audience of 1500 people in Hobart’s Wrest Point Casino, I would never have believed it. For me, that in itself was an incredible personal achievement, regardless of my win.

When I competed at the first level of Lions back in February this year, I had not the slightest idea the experience I was in for, the incredible people I was to meet and the lessons I was to learn. I entered the competition simply because I wanted to do something I enjoyed, in the hopes of picking up some extra interviewing and public speaking experience. But what I gained from Lions, as I progressed through the various levels, was so much greater than this.

The young people I met, at every level of competition, were incredibly accomplished and inspiring. It truly was an honour to compete alongside them and to hear all the wonderful ideas and opinions they brought to the table. I have found new friends in those who I have competed alongside and those who have travelled from one end of the country to the other in order to support me. I have learnt countless new skills that will benefit me far into the future, in both my professional and personal life.

But above all, this experience has given me the confidence to make my voice heard in this world. I have learnt to put aside my own insecurities and self-doubts in order to gain the courage to believe in myself and, in turn, stand up for what I believe in. This, I feel, is the single most important skill that Youth of the Year offers each and every one of its contestants.

I am so honoured to be the Youth of the Year and the youth ambassador for Lions Australia, a remarkable community service organisation that contributes so much to our society on a local, national and global scale.

For any young people who find themselves with an opportunity like this in the future, I implore you to take advantage of it. You don’t have to set out to win in order to find success. You just have to be willing to jump in and give it a go no matter how daunting it may seem. Because, just like me, you might find that you surprise yourself.”

If you’d like to find out more about Lions Youth of the Year in 2018,  check out the promotional video from 2017.

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