Haran Thirumeni is a Year 10 Rutherford student who has recently won the Eastern Zone speech competition in August. He was also the winner in the Junior section of the poetry competition earlier in the year. Haran was asked about his own personal experiences with public speaking and the importance of it. Here below is his response.
We’ve all been there. Practising hours, and hours to the reflection of your own horrific face in the bathroom mirror. And then proceeding to go out on stage, in front of unblinking faces, staring back uninterestedly into your nervous, stumbling self.
Public speaking is hard.
It’s one thing to joke around with friends. Most of us get quivers, freaks and shivers that make earthquakes seem small. But just like with natural disasters, out of the wreckage comes out a stronger person.
A more confident person.
I’ve always loved public speaking. Way back in primary school, I did a speech on Mars. I remember being awed as I walked onto stage, as the seemingly massive audience hushed into silence. Stepping out there, I wasn’t sure of myself. My words or the chance of me slipping and falling from the stage. But I started my speech anyway. First reciting, then slowly smiling and puffing my chest out, as I realised that the only person that mattered out here… was me.
Just like how drawing, writing or music is an art; talking to people is an art. While there are a thousand ways to make stuff look and sound better, the only thing that matters in the end is how you feel about it. Public speaking is you expressing yourself. It’s about sharing your ideas, having a laugh and enjoying the moment. It enables you to communicate better, gives structure to your ideas and lets you be in tune with people like no other medium.
Being nervous is a part of it. The crippling stage-fright of being in front of an audience might make a very wobbly jelly out your bones at the start. But everytime you let yourself feel the fear of messing-up, it becomes just a little bit less scary. Just like Mr Packer says at every single Rutherford house assembly “Pressure builds diamonds”.
The fruits of doing a good speech is just as fulfilling as anything else. Public speaking has changed the entire structure of society several times in history. Whether it be Martin-Luther King Jr’s, ‘I have a dream speech’, Winston Churchill’s ‘Blood, toil, tears and sweat’. Powerful leaders have in the worst of times created ripples across time and history with the simple use of words.
We’re all leaders, leading lives that matter. Everyone needs to have an element of the art of speaking. Even on the street, just saying hello, you can have a positive influence on the community you live in. Even though practising in the shower every day was painful, and my parents are still probably very confused, it’s worth it to make people laugh during a speech. It’s all about enjoying yourself, feeling good about yourself.
Public speaking lets us reach our true selves, our potential. Under the stress of performing, we reach inside ourselves and find a shard of identity. Connect with the rest of our fellow humans in a way that no other art truly can. Stress, pressure and fear, all gone for an instant, the realisation of your true self. Public speaking lets us become ourselves, our true selves – free and confident.
18th September, 2023
Written by Haran Thirumeni, edited by Emma Li for clarity
Photo courtesy of Haran Thirumeni’s parents and Emma Li