7 Tips to Prepare You for the Multicultural Perspectives Public Speaking Competition
8 May 2023
Public speaking can be daunting for anyone, but for children, it can be especially challenging.
Over the coming few weeks, students from public primary schools across New South Wales will be preparing for and presenting their submissions for the Multicultural Perspectives Public Speaking Competition. This is one of the biggest public speaking competitions in Australia, and is run by the Arts Unit (which forms part of the NSW Department of Education), with around 2,000 students representing NSW Government Primary Schools each year in the finals series.
Given many primary schools would have dozens of students clamouring for this opportunity, most hold their own internal public speaking competition to select four representatives – one from each of Year 3 to Year 6 – to represent them in the finals series.
This can be quite an experience, especially for primary school students who only have minimal experience with public speaking – but it also represents a great way for students to build confidence, develop communication skills, and learn about different cultures.
If your child is planning to participate in the NSW Multicultural Perspectives Public Speaking Competition, here are some tips on how they can approach preparing their speech.
What is the format for the Multicultural Public Speaking Competition?
Formally, there are two elements to the NSW Multicultural Perspectives Public Speaking Competition – a prepared speech and an impromptu speech.
That said, for the preliminary public speaking competition at most schools, students are limited to just the prepared speech.
In terms of rules for the public speaking competition, they are generally quite simple. Whilst schools are entitled to set their own, all the students are generally required to:
- Choose one of the set topics for the public speaking competition (see below), which will form the basis of their speech;
- Ensure their speech conveys a message that relates to ‘multiculturalism’, ‘multicultural themes’ or ‘multicultural perspectives’;
- Reach the speaking time (which can also be seen below), making sure to stop before the warning bell; and
- Only use themselves and any prompts (like palm cards) – props and external aids are not allowed in the public speaking competition, nor can they use a lectern or microphone.
The time periods are also spelled out quite clearly, with students:
- In Years 3 & 4 being expected to reach 3 minutes (with a warning bell at 2 minutes, and a continuous bell at 4 minutes); and
- In Years 5 & 6 being encouraged to make 4 minutes (with a warning bell at 3 minutes, and a continuous bell at 5 minutes).
For those four primary school students who are selected to represent their public school, they will then move on to three levels of finals:
- A local final, which will be open to around 2,000 primary school students from across New South Wales, with the winners progressing to…
- A regional final, which will be whittled down to the best primary school students in each region, with the winners progressing further to…
- A state final, which will be open to the top public speakers in the state.
The local final, regional final and state final are held across the year – you can find out more about the Multicultural Perspectives Public Speaking Competition on the NSW Arts Unit website here.
What are the topics for 2023?
Each year, the topics for the Multicultural Perspectives Public Speaking Competition change – some topics from past years have included ‘In my language‘, ‘Australia on the screen‘ and phrases as simple as ‘Healing‘.
For 2023, there are separate topic lists for the two different age groups in the public speaking competition, each centring around different multicultural themes.
For Years 3 & 4, the Multicultural Perspectives Public Speaking Competition topics are:
- Creating connections
- The story of Australia
- Racism – no way!
- Sport brings us together
- A safe place to call home
- When does a migrant become an Australian?
- Kids in charge!
- My multicultural classroom
- Watch your language!
- Advance Australia Fair?
Whilst the Year 5 & 6 Multicultural Perspectives Public Speaking Competition topics are:
- Creating connections
- Everyday racism
- Colour matters
- My backyard
- Raising your voice
- Sport is a game-changer
- Learning from the past
- Identity – it’s complicated
- Difficult journeys
Some of these are repeated topics from last year’s public speaking competition – topics like ‘Everyday racism‘, ‘Racism – no way!‘ and ‘The story of Australia‘ made a return – whilst others are very similar to past topics used by the Arts Unit (‘Kids in charge‘ this year is very similar to ‘Kids lead the way‘ in 2022). But that shouldn’t make too much of a difference – the world has evolved in the past 12 months, and there are plenty of new things to talk about this time around!
How should I prepare?
Great question – there are lots of ways to help give yourself an edge!
Check out the below to learn more about how to use your public speaking skills to their best advantage in the Multicultural Perspectives Competition.
Tip #1 – Check the official marking rubrics
A good place to start is to give some thought to what your judges might be looking for.
The Arts Unit has prepared a handy guide that can be found online here that looks at their advice for speakers and the public speaking skills they’re looking for – but in summary, students should:
- make sure that they speak to time, but don’t reach the continuous bell;
- put a strong emphasis on natural, conversational and relaxed speaking manner (so students can properly show off their public speaking skills);
- pick a public speaking topic from the provided lists (please see above), and ensure that their speech centres around multicultural themes or multicultural perspectives relating to that topic;
- make sure that their speech has an opinion or perspective on the topic that they are using to persuade their audience;
- present a balanced approach to public speaking, with a mix of things like big picture and personal, emotions and facts, and humour and sincerity; and
- follow, at least in part, a relatively standard speech structure – a catchy introduction, a body that explains 2-3 points and a conclusion that leaves audiences with a clear idea of what should happen next.
Many schools will also publish their own marking rubrics for the public speaking competition as well, which will give a better understanding of what your teachers are looking for when deciding who to put through to the finals. The public speaking skills each primary school is looking for will vary, but will generally involve some balance between the 3 M’s – Matter (the content), Method (the structure) and Manner (the way it’s presented).
Please keep an eye out for one of these if your public school has distributed it!
Tip #2 – Picking the right speech topic
One of the nice parts of the NSW Multicultural Perspectives Public Speaking Competition is the number of topics that the primary school students are provided with – whilst everyone must speak about multicultural themes or multicultural perspectives in some way, the variation and range of topics make it much easier for all the students to pick one that suits them!
We’ve pulled together a blog that focuses solely on this point which you can access here, but in summary:
- Have a look at the topics provided by the Arts Unit, and give each of them some thought about what they might mean;
- Brainstorm a list of topics that interest you and explore ideas related to those topics;
- Narrow down your list to a few speech topics that you feel passionate about;
- Decide on the purpose of your speech (do I want to inform, entertain or persuade my audience);
- Choose the topic for the public speaking competition that you can talk about most confidently and convincingly and use to show off your public speaking skills; and
- Do research on the topic to make sure your information is up-to-date, accurate and serves the aims of your speech!
Importantly, whilst some of the topics can have general meanings – think ‘Privilege‘ or ‘My place‘, it’s important to remember that the central concept needs to revolve around multicultural perspectives or multicultural themes – it is crucial to ensure that your message relates to this!
If you’re having difficulty coming up with a topic that suits you for the public speaking competitions, we’ve also put together a range of strategies that can help – you can check out a blog on interpreting speech topics here!
Tip #3 – Pull together your speech body
Whilst you always begin with an introduction when presenting, this isn’t actually how you should start your preparation for a public speaking competition.
Instead, it is almost always better to begin writing the body paragraphs of your speech first.
There are lots of ways that you can explore ideas and pull together points for a speech for a public speaking competition, but the main ideas you should keep in mind are:
- Body paragraphs are the heart and soul of a speech, typically comprised of three paragraphs.
- PEEL is a popular structure for body paragraphs; Point, Explain, Example and Link.
- Writing for speeches should keep in mind that its purpose is to be read aloud (which will have an impact on word choice and sentence length).
Rather than writing long lists of tips and tricks, the best way to learn more about preparing your speech paragraphs is to check out the below videos from our YouTube channel!
Tip #4 – Capture your audience’s attention
A good speech should have a clear and engaging introduction that captures the audience’s attention and shows off your public speaking skills.
Encourage your child to start with a strong hook – something that grabs the attention of their audience – rather than simply starting with their name and topic (which comes later).
We’ve got a detailed blog on how to start speeches for kids, but in summary:
- Many people feel anxious when they have to speak in front of an audience, especially in public speaking competitions where there is something at stake.
- Introductions are key – they should be engaging and excite the audience, especially children.
- Using a structure like CATS – Catchy Opening, Address the Audience, Topic and Signposting – can make a real difference.
- Starting with a personal anecdote or rhetorical question can be effective in grabbing attention.
- Bold statements, statistics and quotes may also work, but are often done poorly.
- When writing the introduction, keep it simple and focus on just one idea (which can be backed up by multiple arguments).
Finally, given audiences will make a strong first impression based on your introduction, it is very important to get things right – make sure that you practice it multiple times, so you sound confident and coherent when presenting!
Tip #5 – Conclude your speech with a strong call to action
Similarly, a good conclusion should summarise the main points of your speech and leave the audience with a lasting impression.
Encouraging your child to conclude with a call to action or thought-provoking question can help them to improve their speechwriting skills and their ability to communicate effectively. Not only can this make their speech more engaging and persuasive, but it can also encourage their audience to take action or think more deeply about the topic at hand.
One common structure for conclusions is ‘ESC’, which stands for:
- E: Ending Phrase – Use a short, easily understood phrase to let the audience know you’re concluding your speech (e.g. ‘In conclusion’).
- S: Summarise – Summarise the main ideas in your speech – this could be a list, but it is often more effective to summarise the key idea.
- C: Call to Action – Give a call to action or a thought-provoking question that leaves the audience understanding what you want their next step to be.
By developing this skill at a young age, your child will be better equipped to succeed not just in any presentation they may need to give, but in all areas of their life where communication is key.
Tip #6 – Practice, practice, practice
Preparing a speech doesn’t end once it’s been written.
Practice is key to delivering a confident and effective speech. Encourage your child to practice their speech in front of a mirror, family members, and friends.
Whilst speaking manner is viewed holistically by judges, it is important to pay attention to its elemental parts that build into the whole. The types of things that judges will often be looking for might include:
- Stance – how you hold yourself (ideally with a confident stature)
- Body language & gestures – how you use your body to convey meaning
- Eye contact – how often you look up at the audience
- Enunciation – how easily your words are understood
- Pace – the speed with which you talk, and the pauses that you take
- Tone & Expression – where you place emphasis and emotion in your voice
For each of these things, the most important thing is to be natural – you don’t need lots of hand gestures, and you shouldn’t be artificially looking up at the end of every sentence with a cursory glance. Try to make each of these things appear as conversational and natural as possible, and you’ll be a long way to presenting an engaging speech.
Whilst there are plenty more things that you can focus on, the most important thing is not to try conquering everything in one go – pick something, work on it, and then move on to the next thing. It’s impossible to focus on everything at once, which is why we use habits – actions we don’t really have to think about, but just do instinctively. The aim of practising is to ingrain at least some of these habits to make the actual presentation better.
One last thing to note is that the NSW Multicultural Perspectives Public Speaking Competition encourages students not to memorise their speech – even if they’ve reached the local final or even state final – but instead use dot points on their palm cards. This means that you don’t need to learn it word for word – which, especially in younger people, often ends up with a relatively mechanical display. Instead, you are able to present as naturally as possible with the aid of prompts if you get stuck.
If you’re looking for suggestions on how to improve your speaking manner, check out one of our Speak to Inspire videos below!
Tip #7 – Get feedback and revise
Finally, encourage your child to get feedback on their speech and revise it for the public speaking competition accordingly.
Speechwriting doesn’t end when you’re ready to start practising – instead, you should ask for feedback from teachers, coaches, or anyone who can provide constructive criticism. Having received this feedback, you should consider any suggestions for improvement and make revisions as needed.
If you reach a local final, or end up going even further to the regional or state final, make sure to keep in mind that your speech isn’t static – you are welcome (and even encouraged) to continue to refine it as you progress!
Keep in mind that the goal of the Multicultural Perspectives Public Speaking Competition is not just to win, but also to learn and grow as a speaker.
Dealing with nerves
It’s entirely natural to feel anxious before delivering a speech or presentation, especially when it involves a public speaking competition.
However, it’s important to stay positive and to try some calming techniques. Take a few deep breaths and remind yourself that you’ve prepared for this. Trust yourself and your instincts and try to maintain a calm and confident demeanour throughout the presentation.
With a clear head, you can deliver your message with conviction and poise, impressing your audience and persuading them to your perspective with ease. Remember, everyone in the public speaking competition is in the same boat – they’ve either just given a speech, or will need to give one soon. The audience is on your side.
The worst thing that can really happen is forgetting what comes next, and even then, that’s okay – take a breath, make sure you’ve got your cards numbered, find your place and keep on going. You’ve got this.
What about impromptu speeches?
So, you’re one of the local finals speakers, or heading to the regional finals of the public speaking competition. You’ve crafted a magnificent speech using all the tips we’ve provided, but wait, there’s more!
Following the prepared speeches, you’ll need to deliver an impromptu speech – a compulsory part of the Multicultural Public Speaking Competition weighted equally to the prepared speech once you reach the finals series.
Whilst this doesn’t always appear at preliminary school rounds, some schools do use it as a tie-breaker when the teacher can’t decide between the prepared speeches, so it’s worth knowing how it all functions!
What’s going to happen?
At the public speaking competition, you’ll be ushered into a quiet room, seated at a desk and presented with an ostensibly random topic. And then the clock starts ticking! You’ll have a mere five minutes to build a brief presentation. No notes or plans can be worked on beforehand – just blank paper and palm cards to guide you.
The topic will be generic enough to leave plenty of room for interpretation, but rest assured, everyone at the public speaking competition will get the same one! It might seem daunting, but we promise, it’s not as scary as it sounds!
What are the rules?
The rules are set out by the Arts Unit, but can be summarised as follows.
First up is timing. All primary school students will receive the same five minutes of preparation time, with the following speaking times for each division:
- For Years 3 & 4, students should aim to reach 1 minute (with a warning bell at 30 seconds, and a continuous bell at 1:30); and
- For Years 5 & 6, students are expected to reach 2 minutes (with a warning bell at 90 seconds, and a continuous bell at 2:30).
It is important to not just fill the time with rambling, though – just like a prepared speech, the content you’re providing should be as concise as possible!
Second is the topic.
In 2022, the state finals impromptu speeches centred on ‘A waste of time‘ for Years 3 – 4 and ‘Choosing sides‘ for Years 5 – 6.
Whilst you could explore ideas relating to multicultural themes or multicultural perspectives for either of these topics, it’s important to remember that this is not only unnecessary but is in fact actively discouraged. Judges are looking for fresh expressions that distinguish impromptu presentations from prepared ones. Using content from prepared speeches, whether your own or someone else’s, is not recommended, so it’s generally better to simply avoid multicultural themes altogether.
Third and finally is how the impromptu presentations are judged.
The rules of what makes a good impromptu speech are exactly the same as for the prepared section of the public speaking competition:
- Matter – It’s best to choose a single focal point to present instead of a jumble of ideas that lack direction. After all, you want the audience to remember something unique and interesting, not a rundown of mundane details. With that said, always aim to differentiate yourself from the other competitors by discussing a topic that’s captivating and a little bit different.
- Manner – It’s important to present your impromptu speech with the same poise and confidence as your prepared speech.
- Method – Just because it’s an impromptu speech doesn’t mean it should lack structure. You still need an introduction, a body and a conclusion.
Preparing for unprepared speeches
Despite limited preparation time in the actual public speaking competition, it is actually possible to prepare for an unseen topic – the best way to prepare for an impromptu speech is three-fold.
First, familiarise yourself with different speech structures you might be able to use in a pinch. Given impromptu speeches are substantially shorter than prepared speeches, the structures will often be different and only involve presenting one point.
Second, prepare a range of engaging and interesting anecdotes that you can bend to the topic. These may be from your own lived experience, or otherwise be things that you find engaging and can speak passionately about.
Third, practice with a list of impromptu speaking topics – whilst you can source these yourself, you can also look at some topics we’ve collated here.
Still not sure how to prepare? Check out some of our Speak to Inspire videos below to learn more!
Preparing for the Multicultural Perspectives Public Speaking Competition can be a rewarding experience for primary school students across New South Wales.
By choosing a topic they are passionate about, researching it thoroughly, writing an engaging introduction and conclusion, practising their delivery, and getting feedback and revising, they can develop valuable communication skills and confidence.
Encourage your child to approach the NSW Multicultural Perspectives Public Speaking Competition with a positive attitude and a willingness to learn and grow.