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Society Stories: Strath Speakers

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strath speakers in mandela auditorium

Written by Maisie Keogh

Public speaking is frequently ranked as the world’s number one fear, with an incredible 75% of people being affected by it. From slight nervousness to complete anxiety, speaking in front of even a small crowd has the ability to fill even the most experienced of working professionals with dread. 

Public speaking is not a skill that is typically taught at the university-level which means that we are not helping students to prepare for the challenges they will be faced with in their future careers.  

At Strathclyde Speakers we have over three years’ experience in delivering and facilitating workshops with professional speaking coaches. Our aim has been to remove the barrier between students and expensive professional speaking coaches, helping them to develop a strong repertoire of oration skills prior to graduating. 

We decided to use our years of experience to develop a professional public speaking programme where students could get increased exposure to the rigors of public speaking but in a safe space with an award-winning public speaking coach. 

We received over 100 applications during the submission window from students across all years of study and across each of the four faculties. As we wanted to encourage a highly interactive session and also allow for every attendee to have the opportunity to practice their speaking skills during each session, we were only able to accept 40 students into the programme. Furthermore, following the application window closing, we continued to receive applications from students who were keen to join us. To date, we have a wait list of over 150 students who are seeking out the opportunity to join us should we be able to run the programme again.  

Our aims for the programme were very clear: 

  • Understand from the application process the number of students who were actively seeking a way to improve their public speaking skills. 
  • Remove the financial barrier to accessing a public speaking coach for students. 
  • Facilitate a 12-week programme where we could build confidence and skills through a combination of teaching and practice. 
  • Gather data via surveys throughout the programme which would allow us to write an academic paper which can be published. Having a peer-reviewed paper showing the merits of having a formal public speaking programme dedicated to students.  
  • Use this paper to attract external funding and support from within the university to allocate resources towards a permanent structured programme. 

The 12-week programme consisted of 5 sessions dedicated to a different area of public speaking with a 6th session focused on combining the skills from the previous 10 weeks and delivering a short presentation to the group. 

We covered several topics including: 

  • Story Telling 
  • Structure 
  • Body Language 
  • Voice 
  • Virtual Speaking 

Proof of Impact  

We believe that our project was large in scope and ambition making a great impact to the student community. At the end of our programme, our students completed their final survey and provided their thoughts on the experience. 

“I highly recommend this program for all students since it is very important in any area of work. As one of our lecturers says " why it is not already there" as part of the course. This will give an added advantage to the institution in attracting more students. Before attending this session, I wasn't familiar with structure of a presentation and how to convey the presentation as a story. There were many useful tips like how to effectively use your tone and the importance of face expressions and body language in conveying the message. I would give 10/10 for the session.’’ 

‘‘I am now able to structure my speech in an orderly manner and speak without beating around the bush. I also feel confident and inspired from speeches of my peers.’’ 

‘’The Strath Speakers Public Speaking Programme was an excellent opportunity for me to develop my public speaking skills, I have been able to utilise the skills which I learned during the course both in my volunteering and in my studies.’’ 

Furthermore, we gathered quantitative data from our students at three points in the programme. It could be clearly seen that at the start, the number of people who were unconfident/very unconfident were high, reducing throughout the programme. Conversely, at the end the number of students who said they were confident/very confident was at their highest, showing that the programme had made a significant positive impact on the. We also have additional datasets which reinforce the fact that our professional public speaking programme has been highly successful. 

Our programme was so successful that we were recognised and shortlisted for Society of the Year at the NUS Scotland Awards. We were delighted with this and very proud of everything we have achieved.

Throughout Semester 2, we also held social events and regular meetups offering members the chance to make lifelong friendships and advance their existing public speaking skills. We are now looking ahead to the next academic year where we hope to offer the public speaking programme to a larger cohort of students. Further announcements will be made over the Summer but from Maisie and Sami.

I would like to thank all of our members and supporters for what has been an amazing 2022/2023! 


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