Apr 07

BBC 2 Programme The Speaker

So Reality T.V. finally does speaking. Like some sort of bad cross between Big Brother and The X Factor; The Speaker is a new series that looks to find Britain’s Best Young Speaker. Quite an interesting topic for a programme and something that helps raise awareness for this craft and, hopefully, Toastmasters International. But it’s not quite clear why they’re doing it, other than the fact that great speaking is now back en vogue thanks to President Obama.
The problem I have with The Speaker right off the bat is the fact that amongst all the celebrities and judges none of them are speakers who have dedicated themselves to the craft of public speaking.

There’s stand-up comedian Jo Brand, former British Basketball star-turned-speaker John Amaechi and actor, director and teacher Jeremy Stockwell (whom I did a workshop with whilst I was at drama school).

It’s one thing being famous for something else such as being a successful athlete or a famous author and then cashing in on the lucrative speaking circuit. But that doesn’t automatically make them a good speaker. Look at new graduate on to the international speaking circuit, former U.S. President, George W Bush.

Same with stand-up comedians, Stand-up is a close cousin to speaking; but the two are wildly different. And then there’s actors. I have a background as a professional actor, but again acting is not the same as speaking.

Public speaking is about being yourself and presenting your ideas with a definite objective and evidence to support what you’re saying.

The problem seems to be that many people don’t know what public speaking is. I have to admit, before I joined Toastmasters I didn’t have a clue either. But for theatre director and judge Jeremy Stockwell to say that he didn’t know what the rules of public speaking were, was a little bit… ridonculous if you ask me. You’re a JUDGE, if you don’t know how are WE supposed to know? Not only that, how can you pick a winner??

Not only that but Brand was looking for speakers to be funny and Stockwell was look for good acting. None of which really has anything to do with speaking. You can be funny as a speaker, but you have a message to convey.

What I noticed happening a lot was that the youngsters mostly gave monologues. A monologue is completely different from a speech. A monologue is a speech given by an actor playing a character, in which the audience passively observes.

Whereas a speech is more of a one-way dialogue with the audience and, depending on the topic that you speak on, you have  given thought to what you what your audience to think about differently after you’re done. Maybe they could’ve explained a little more about what a speech is and what it isn’t during the application process…?

Whilst there is a great line up of mentors coming up in The Speaker like Alistair Campbell, Earl Spencer and Kate Silverton, it might have been nice to have a judge or mentor who has experience of Toastmasters like Phillip Khan-Panni, Darren LaCroix or Craig Valentine. Not that these are the best speakers in the world, but because they are dedicated to their craft. They may be authors or whatever, but they all have the craft in common. I think that that’s important and often overlooked.

However, with the peeps I’ve just mentioned they probably weren’t picked because they haven’t been heard of or been on TV. Other than the fact that I’ve worked with Stockwell, would you have heard of him or John Amaechi? Me neither. Were these judges picked because they come credit crunch cheap?

All the mentors being used do use speaking skills in many different ways, such as persuasive speaking with Alistair Campbell, but none are particularly known for their amazing speaking or oratory skills.

Overall though, there were some good youngsters giving it their best shot. We can only wait to see what happens once the 8 week programme is over and also what eventually becomes of the winner of The Speaker. After all, depending on their age they will probably have school to contend with first.

The winnerof BBC2’s “The Speaker” can be found here.