College pupils prove they have the ‘gift of the gab’

The Portadown College debating team were winners in the Northern Ireland Business and Professional Women's Debating competition for the third year in a row. In addition Joanna Kerr was awarded the prize for best chairperson and Danielle Weir received the prize for best expresser of thanks. pictured from left are Mr Simon Harper, school principal, team members, Joanna Kerr, Josh Quinn and Danielle Weir andMrs Gladys Montgomery, head of English. INPT07-201.
The Portadown College debating team were winners in the Northern Ireland Business and Professional Women's Debating competition for the third year in a row. In addition Joanna Kerr was awarded the prize for best chairperson and Danielle Weir received the prize for best expresser of thanks. pictured from left are Mr Simon Harper, school principal, team members, Joanna Kerr, Josh Quinn and Danielle Weir andMrs Gladys Montgomery, head of English. INPT07-201.

They’re well spoken at Portadown College - and they have the trophies to prove it!

The school’s Public Speaking team have just won the NI Final of the Business and Professional Women’s Public Speaking competition for the third year in a row.

Now they’ll be hoping to emulate the success of the 2017 team, which went on to win the National Final against teams from England and Wales, hosted at the prestigious public school, Moreton Hall in Shropshire.

Last year’s team were denied the opportunity as the National Final did not take place. This year the event will be held at Stormont and teams from England and Wales will travel to contest the trophies.

The local team consists of Joanna Kerr acting as Chairperson, Joshua Quinn, the Speaker and Danielle Weir, Expresser of Thanks.

Joanna won Best Chairperson, while Danielle was awarded Best Expresser of Thanks.

For Joshua, he was encouraged by an adjudicator’s commendation when informed that the adjudicating team had been split over Best Speaker.

The competition takes the format of a meeting in miniature. The role of the Chairperson is to welcome everyone, put them at their ease, introduce the Speaker and manage the proceedings.

The speaker addresses the audience for six minutes on a topic of their choice and responds to two questions, one from a member of the audience, the other from the Chairperson.

The Expresser of Thanks reflects on the speech on behalf of the audience and expresses their gratitude to the Speaker.

This may sound straightforward but is complicated by the fact that each Speaker joins a Chairperson and Expresser of Thanks from a different team.

This means they have to be quick thinking and calm under pressure as they adapt to a Speaker whom they have never met before and a topic unfamiliar to them beforehand.

Similarly, the Speaker has to answer questions without having any idea of their content in advance, which demands real depth of knowledge and understanding and the ability to be articulate and spontaneous.

Public Speaking at Portadown College is mentored by Mrs Gladys Montgomery, Head of English.

She is delighted with the success of her speakers, not only in this competition but also in the Soroptimist Public Speaking Competition and the Edgar Graham Memorial Public Speaking Competition which has been won by the College two out of the last three years.

For her, winning is a bonus. Learning skills which are transferable to any real life environment and the experience of competing and meeting young people from other schools are what makes these events so worthwhile and enjoyable.

On the secret of their success, she said, “In this case make sure you have a good team with the right people in the right place,

“The people we have are just naturally talented.”

Josh said, “We work with Mrs Montgomery to make sure we are confident in what we say,”

Mrs Montgomery added, “In its delivery you need to have a rapport with the audience, I can gauge how people will react but these young people are extremely talented in their own right.”

That delivery, she said, has to be confident without arrogance.

On competition nerves, Joanna said, “No matter how many times you practice you still get nervous. We get an energy as a team so you can channel that.”

As for preparation for the national final Mrs Montgomery said, “We will start once we know the date, we don’t want to peak too soon.”