It wasn’t until about 25 years ago that I first heard an interesting, intelligent, well constructed and entertaining speech. Until that time I had only heard boring, uninspiring and lacklustre speeches devoid of any passion and usually made by politicians and other public figures who speak to a predictable formula of topic avoidance.
That was until I heard a speech made by a best man at a family wedding. As he dragged himself up to the microphone and flicked back his waist length hair he looked extremely uncomfortable in his ill fitted suit. He gave the best speech I had ever heard. It was witty, entertaining and gave enough information for the bride’s family to have a good understanding of the newest member of their family. I thought, if he can do it, why can’t everyone else, including me?
It was at that time that I worked in the Landcentre building which was directly across the road from the Gabba Cricket Ground. The Landcentre had its own Rostrum Club.
To me, a lunchtime public speaking club was a welcome reprieve from the tedium of work. Among the members were some interesting characters but all were friendly, welcoming, entertaining, good company and able to give sensational speeches, both prepared and off-the-cuff. I was in awe of them, so I joined Rostrum in the mid-nineties. I left paid employment, studied, married and had a family but the one constant in my life was Rostrum.
One of my earliest memories is my mother leading me through the labyrinth of laneways in central Brisbane to see a speech therapist along with a few other preschool aged children. We all had phonological problems with our speech which required therapy and hard work that continued during all our primary school years. It isn’t something that is easily overcome, you can disguise it, but you are never rid of it.
I studied speech and drama in secondary school to continue with a different type of therapy and took exams with AMEB to the year just below letters but by then I was sick of exams and phonetics and gave up as I never intended to teach. With a shortfall in verbal communication skills I turned to writing and developed other skills in communication, mainly writing short stories which have won various competitions and my stories are in a number of anthologies.
Writing short stories and speeches require similar skills, the selection of every word is important, you have a word limit and you must hook the audience from the first sentence and preferably have a twist in the tail. You often need to research your topic which can lead you up some unexpected and interesting paths. Joining Rostrum has helped me with yet a different type of therapy and confidence to further develop my verbal skills which is difficult to find in adult life. Rostrum provides a personal challenge to constantly improve communication skills.
Fmn Bernie Ketter, Chair, Queensland Rostrum Freeman's Council