Duo in Rostrum's national public speaking contest after winning state level

INFLUENCING crowds of strangers is second nature for two Ballarat secondary school students. 

Ballarat High School student Laura Benney enjoys public speaking.

Ballarat High School student Laura Benney enjoys public speaking.

Ballarat High and Ballarat Grammar students Laura Benney and Matthew Hall’s wise words at Sunday’s Rostrum Voice of Youth Public Speaking state finals earnt them a place in the national competition.

The students will have to provide influential and convincing public speeches to five adjudicators and audiences in the national competition to be held in Adelaide on July 26. 

Laura wowed judges at the state competition by passionately sharing her views on racial discrimination. 

She also inspired the audience in the regional heats to ‘never say never’ and look beyond their physical and mental boundaries. 

“The great thing about these competitions is there is no rivalry,” she said. 

“Everyone is supportive.”

Laura and Matthew were asked to improvise a three-minute speech with 15 minutes’ notice. 

“I get really nervous before improvised speeches,” Laura said.

“My topic was ‘at the crossroads’ and I highlighted three family members who had made significant choices in their pasts.”

Matthew improvised a speech on the topic ‘get to the point’. 

He also memorised his eight-minute speech about overcoming fear to achieve in life. 

Matthew isn’t a stranger to the competition, having competed in the nationals in 2013. 

Laura said she had had a lot of fun in the competition. 

“Everyone did an amazing job,” she said. 

“I’m very excited for the next leg of the competition.

“My favourite thing has been hearing everyone’s views.”

Ballarat High School public speaking and debating co-ordinator Simon Marcollo said he was proud of his student’s efforts. 

“My job is really easy,” he said.