So you think you could never speak at a UNISON conference?

Neither did young member Victoria Haddow, so she did something about it

After a few months on the Regional Young Members Committee I fancied a challenge! I’d heard that another young member, Stacey Davies from Cambridge had spoken at last year’s National Local Government Conference. That was something I couldn’t see myself doing, at least not before my time as a young member ran out. I wasn’t alone either; young members often feel overwhelmed in front of older members, their employers or potential new recruits. So I decided to do something about it and signed up for a Speaking with Confidence course. When we arrived at the UNISON regional office and learnt what we’d let ourselves in for, most of us confessed to having butterflies. After a morning of films and training exercises, we would have to deliver a two minute speech. Better get started then…


Victoria and other young members at the course

By reading and watching the work of famous speakers – Lupita Nyong’o’s speech at the Essence Awards was particularly striking – we were able to identify the grammatical tactics used by even the most well-rehearsed speakers. Our trainer Fi allowed us to watch her lightning-quick speech to an NUS conference, which taught us how body language and tone can affect both crowds of delegates and officials. By lunchtime some of us had almost written their full two minutes. Others, myself included, were struggling to come up with a topic that we felt we could cast in a personal light. In the end subjects ranged from women in video games (that was me!) to housing and bullying. Though it was optional, everyone chose to be videoed so we could watch our speeches (in private) and sort out what worked from what didn’t. Those who had planned their speech in full were the most successful, with some of the more off-the-cuff talks overrunning or falling short of the two minute target. We acknowledged the short preparation time was meant to mimic the worst-case scenario, where you have to step up at the very last minute – something that would frighten people of any age. Yet the techniques we’d learnt had all worked under pressure, and as a result we rated ourselves as ‘more confident’ after the session. The Regional YM Committee even gained a member for 2015. If you would like to take part in similar training, speak up!