Is there a secret to public speaking? Lessons from Bettakultcha

This week I delivered a speech at Leeds University’s very first Student Engagement Showcase. It was an afternoon of presentations designed to highlight the many ways that Leeds students are engaged in university life outside their studies.

We heard from a variety of speakers with an array of interests, from volunteering in India, to music improvisation, entrepreneurship, rugby and medical ethics. My speech was about my passion for media and journalism, which has been burning steadily alongside my studies in English and History ever since my first work experience placement at my local paper in 2010.

On hearing ‘afternoon of presentations’ you might think that the Showcase was a long string of speeches that had the crowd’s heads lolling about their shoulders.  But the speeches weren’t merely factual regurgitation- they were inspiring, entertaining and heart-warming narratives, written with the sole purpose of sharing unique and untold stories.

Prior to the event, when the showcase team had selected each speaker, we attended a training session led by artist and professional speaker Ivor Tymchak, who has been making (tidal) waves of creative impact lately in Yorkshire. Ivor is the co-founder of indie phenomenon ‘Bettakultcha’, a cultural event in Leeds, Bradford and Huddersfield that invites people to deliver presentations about their passions.

But there’s a catch- all presentations must be five minutes exactly, consisting of 20 slides lasting 15 seconds each. All slides must move automatically on a timer- and the crux of the idea is that all presentations must tell a story. Forget all your one-dimensional presentation styles like describing, explaining and listing- and start thinking more along the lines of engaging, exchanging and inspiring.

So what did we learn from Ivor? Listening to him bestow his public speaking wisdom took me on a journey back through all the embarrassing presentation mishaps of my past. The first thing he focussed on was that presentations are a two-way experience. Not only do you have to think about getting the bare bones of your presentation right, but you also have to remember that the audience will only relax at your discretion. “If you feel awkward and nervous, the audience will feel awkward and nervous.”

He also told us not to pretend to be someone we aren’t, as audiences have a natural intuition and will be able to see right through it. So rather than spend an entire evening watching Ted talks and deciding that you’re going to adopt a different accent or start using an array of fancy hand gestures, try focussing on what makes you unique, and whatever that thing is- nourish it.

Something I’d never considered before was to remember to make your presentation human. Don’t let the podium, the microphone or the spotlight go to your head and remember that you’re just like the audience. They’re much more likely to relax if you talk about relatable or humbling experiences- or even the times that you failed.

But the ultimate piece of advice was to speak from the heart. Think about why you’re passionate about your topic in the first place. Why do you care about it, why is it important, why is it pressing? Think about the many reasons why you are emotionally attached to your passion and share them.

As I thought back over the various speeches I’ve listened to in the past, this last piece of advice immediately made sense. It reminded me of sitting in the audience at World Merit Day 2014, when I was moved to tears by a speech from Hillsborough disaster campaigner, Margaret Aspinall.

Margaret lost her son James in the Hillsborough Disaster of 1989 and has campaigned for truth and justice for the last 25 years. The weight of the journey she’d already endured, the enormity of the path ahead and an unwavering determination to carry on the fight were articulated loud and clear with every word she spoke.

I didn’t give her a standing ovation because I thought she was well rehearsed, because she was especially articulate, or because she used just the right amount of triplets and idioms. I gave her a standing ovation because she had moved me. I was roused from my seat because I’d forgotten I was listening to a speech at all. I wasn’t hearing a speech: I was listening to Margaret and her story.

I’ve been writing and blogging for a lot longer than I’ve been public speaking. But what Ivor helped me realise is that what unites the brilliance of the written and spoken word is very simple. As Sir Philip Sydney once said, ‘Look in thy heart and write.’ The next time I’ll be taking to the stage, I’ll remember to look to my heart for inspiration before opening my mouth.


The Arts Show Roundup – 23/11/2014

Check out the Student Radio at Leeds University. Here’s a post from the Arts Show, talking about all of the fun and creative things happening in Leeds.

The Arts Show on LSR

Review: Below The Belt at Duncan Street art space
Helen headed down to Below The Belt, an exhibition exploring masculinity (including a fruit orgy!).
Below The BeltBelow The Belt
You can check out a gallery of photos from the event and check out the online debates about the exhibition’s content on the Facebook event page.

Debate: where do you draw the line between admiration and obsession?
Mark and Faye headed up our debate this week, discussing how far some fans will go to show their dedication to an artist or band. If you’ve been following us on Instagram, you’ll have noticed lots of lovely Lady Gaga fans waiting for the Art Rave in Sheffield. Mark discussed his experience of the concert on the show.

Have you ever been harassed by…

View original post 306 more words

Lottie Prince – Managing Editor for the University of Leeds’ Human Rights Journal


I’m Lottie and during my final year as a Classical Literature and English student. I was also the Managing Editor for the University of Leeds’ Undergraduate Human Rights Journal.

For the first couple of years at university – like many English students – I had my heart set on a career in journalism. I got involved in all kinds of activities: Lippy (Leeds University’s alternative women’s magazine); Leeds Student Newspaper, Ones to Watch (a student journalism website showcasing the best of national student media); and some free-lance writing for various online blogs. As well as my editing roles, I was writing articles on the problem of poverty in Leeds, the humanitarian crisis amidst the Syrian Revolution, the law that forces women to marry their rapists in Morocco, the participant of Afghani women in international sport, a Guardian journalist’s run-in with Russian intelligence, the plight of mothers seeking asylum in the United Kingdom, and artistic dissidence in countries of conflict. I also had managed to interview an academic who went to see the conflict in Syria for himself.

I knew that I only really ever had an interest in writing on humanitarian issues, so I was quickly turned off the idea of journalism. I realised that this kind of journalism wasn’t the kind of stuff that sold and I would be better writing articles on ‘what your Halloween outfit really says about you’ (no offence to The Tab).

I met Hannah, the Editor-In-Chief for the Human Rights Journal, at a charity event for Leeds Friends of Syria. I explained to her about my interest in humanitarian issues, and she told me about the Human Rights Journal. Hannah was the Editor in Chief for the Human Rights Journal, which was just about to start working on its second edition. I applied for the role of Managing Editor, which I was successful in. Although the journal was still a very new project, the first edition had proved to be such a massive success and we were determined to live up to this reputation.

As Managing Editor, my role was: communicating deadlines among the rest of the Editorial Board, authors and designers; editing and making necessary improvements to authors and working with them to agree a final copy; supporting Peer Reviewers on the Editorial Board and sharing the peer reviewing / editing work board; proof-reading final copies (then proof-reading them again and again and again); assisting the Editor-In-Chief with various admin tasks, including budget plans, funding applications, and making sure that we created and worked within a realistic time-frame; as well as actively contributing ideas to shape the Journal’s development. All of this, as well as handing in my final year dissertation and also being the Editor in Chief for Lippy, was pretty heavy going…

Working on the Human Rights Journal was the most challenging but definitely the most rewarding part of my university undergraduate experience. I think it’s because I was able to meet and work with a range of students my age with the same interests, where we were able to work to work together within an academic environment to highlight a range of issues relating to human rights. We managed to bring together a group of talented undergraduate students to showcase what they are passionate about: this included essays on LGBT rights in Lithuania; Sino-African relations in regard to human rights; photography capturing the hardships of NGOs in Madagascar, and even poetry depicting the issue of race in the American Deep South. The Human Rights Journal prides itself in allowing students to express their views, passions, and interests using an array of different platforms. For me, it was a writing platform that was solely dedicated to what I wanted to read and learn about; and it was being read by people who felt the same.

One of the best things about being involved in the journal was it was all a huge learning experience.  Not only was I developing my editing experiences, but I was also able to learn about a range of humanitarian issues from around the world. A lot of the work that was submitted to the journal were academic essays that had been worked over meticulously for months on end on topics that students had been researching as a part of their degree. The journal provides the reader with academic insight into human rights but from different academic fields’ perspectives, such as International Relations, History, English Literature, and Law.

Being Managing Editor for the journal was great fun, but it was also tough. We had quite a few meetings that should have only really lasted one hour, which slowly turned into two… or three… but we managed to put together another really amazing academic piece of work, which definitely show-cased the amazing range of talent here in Leeds. We also struggled to find a designer until the very last minute; we had a brilliant collection of work to showcase but no one to help us make it look good. Luckily, it all fell together and everything went according to plan. And luckily my degree also went really well; I graduated in the summer, and I’m back this year to do a Masters in Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies.

If you haven’t had the opportunity to have a read of the Human Rights Journal yet, I couldn’t recommend it more – both issues published so far are pretty amazing! And keep your eye out for the journal around campus this academic year, because it’s in safe hands and I’m sure it will remain a huge success!

Interview With a School Rep


Want to know how to become a School Rep at Leeds? Read our interview with Sophie Bellin, School Rep of SOEE!

As a bit of background for those who aren’t familiar with Leeds’ structure, faculties are split into schools, which are split into courses. Sophie refers here to school and course level activities.

24th October 2014

What is SOEE?

School of Earth and Environment.

And what do you study?

I study Environmental Science and I’m in my third year.

Awesome. How would you sum up Environmental Science and Earth & Environment in layman’s terms?

Environmental Sciences is the science of the environment. It has 5 sections – the management of the environment, the atmosphere, the biology, the chemistry and the water of the environment. So those are the 5 main sections and I specialise in water and biology. And Earth & Environment is everything to do with the Earth and Environment. SOEE has courses ranging from Geophysics to Enviro-Business. So the courses that SOEE offers are really diverse – you go from really science-y to quite social science-y.

Cool. How have you found the course? Do you enjoy it? What are the good and bad points?

I really enjoy Environmental Science. When I was at school I always used to enjoy Geography and the sciences and Maths, and Environmental Science really does incorporate all of them. It’s not clear-cut as to where each topic lies, which I really like. I couldn’t really name a bad thing about it, it’s just really exciting because the environment is such a hot topic at the moment so everything’s changing and our lectures are so incorporated around the research done in the school.

That’s very cool. So it’s on the forefront. Are you doing a research topic with a lecturer that’s on the forefront as well?

Yeah, for my dissertation I’m looking at phosphorus and iron speciation in sapropels in the Eastern-Mediterranean Sea. And my results for my dissertation form part of the results for a bigger research project that could have an impact on climate change models. So that’s quite massive.

Yeah, that’s cool! So how did you hear about the SOEE Rep position?

Through the union and… Throughout university life I’ve been really involved with the union so in first year I was a Green Rep for my halls and last year I was a Course Rep, mainly because I didn’t get School Rep last year. But I’m glad I had a year of being Course Rep before I became School Rep.

Yeah. And how is it comparing, between School and Course Rep? What are the positions and what are the main differences?

Being Course Rep is making sure all the people in your course are heard. So that isn’t easy but you have more access to everyone in your course, so it’s easier to get the general ideas from people. Whereas as School Rep, I’m representing 600 people and some of them, well a lot of them, I’ve never met before. And we do courses that are so different to mine, and whose needs and issues are so different to any that I have experienced. So I have to rely on the Course Reps to hand me any information that they can get on their course mates. So there’s a heavy reliance on other people.

How’re you finding managing people who would otherwise be your peers?

I try to be quite casual, because at the end of the day, I am representing them and there isn’t a hierarchy… I’m just the same as everyone else. I’ve just been chosen to represent them. So I think it’s important to stay on the same level as them because that’s the only way I can get their true opinions about things.

So how does it work? Do you have a weekly or monthly meeting to discuss..?

It’s all a bit chaotic at the moment because I’ve been in charge of hiring the Course Reps alongside our Student Experience Officer. So at the moment I’ve spent the majority of my time finding, doing elections and things like that, for the Course Reps. And that’s taken up a horrendous amount of my time. [laughs] And getting emails from all of them, I think, at the moment we’re up to 40 course reps now. So it’s a lot to manage. We had our first Student/Staff forum last week, which went really well. So that’s the official way I meet up with them. And then otherwise we have a Facebook group and we talk regularly by email. And I’m setting up just a Student forum, in between the two Student/Staff forums, so that I can talk to them on our own and see what’s going on.

How did you find gathering opinions when you were a Course Rep, and how are you helping to help Course Reps who might be struggling with finding opinions this year?

I think the most important thing is to know people and just go up to them and say “Hey. You do this. How’re you finding it?”. So my biggest advice for all the Course Reps is to try and make friends with everyone…


…And talk to them. Because sending emails and just writing on Facebook groups is not always effective, and people don’t want to necessarily tell you their problems if they don’t really know you.

So what kind of problems would you deal with, typically?

As a School Rep or a Course Rep?


Well as a Course Rep last year, I dealt with a deadline issue. We hadn’t got an assignment back and we were already meant to be handing in our second assignment, which clashed with the feedback policy in our school. So I managed to get a deadline moved back. So that’s the kind of thing you could do as a Course Rep. And then as a School Rep. There’s been a big issue this year with portfolios. At the end of second year, everyone has to hand in a portfolio of all their assignments from the year. They’ve decided to stop doing the portfolios this year and there’s been a change in staff in our Taught Student Office, so people haven’t got back work from last semester, year 2. And fourth years who went on a year abroad… Quite a few of them have actually had their portfolios lost. The school are trying to do what they can to try and find them but it’s not looking great. So I… To a certain extent, I have to be the one who transcends this information, because the school weren’t aware that the portfolios hadn’t been given back and it was only when people told me that they hadn’t been handed back, that I went up and said “Look. These people are waiting for their portfolios”. All the module leaders, they give their feedback and then it’s down to the office to send it back. So there’s two links. And the module leaders have done what they have to do, so then they don’t know if we don’t get it back.

Mm. So it’s good for them to hear that information.


Do you deal with any positive feedback to the school? And what kind of positive feedback, if any, have you had?

Erm. We had quite a lot of positive feedback in our first Student/Staff forum. We ran a workshop in it, in the first hour. I’m trying to think of some now. [laughs] [pause] One is that the personal tutors, the idea of the personal tutors and the personal tutors that we do have are really good. And their office hours are good and they’re always available and they respond really quickly to questions. I think especially people who’ve been to other universities, they’ve found that a really positive experience. That’s one of the best things.

Good! How’re you finding balancing your course work and being a School Rep?

With difficulty! [laughs] I think at the moment I’m a lot more busy with the School Rep role than I will be in a couple of weeks time, just because of the gathering of all the Course Reps. So last Thursday I replied to 60 emails! Just related to being Course Reps. So that takes up a lot of time.

Hopefully it’ll balance out though.


So at the moment I’m hoping that it’ll quieten down a bit, but if it doesn’t then my plan is to set aside an hour when I answer emails for School Rep stuff. And try and keep on top of it and do that. Because I have emails on my phone and I tend to just read them all the time.

Emails take so long! To write up properly as well! Yeah, I totally get that. What’re you going to write about this position on any CV or applications? How do you think it’s going to help you and what kind of skills do you think you’ve gained?

I think one of the main skills that I see from getting the role, is that I have perseverance and commitment. Because I applied for the role three times but it was only on my third time that I got it. And also that throughout my degree I’ve done different roles and being a School Rep shows that I can work my way up, and improve, and that I am bettering my skills. As such.

Cool. What do you want to do after you finish your degree?

I’m not quite sure! [laughs] I’d really like to work for UNEP, so I’ll probably have to do quite a few internships when I graduate, to get into the UN.

What would you recommend for people wanting to become a School Rep to write on an application or say in an interview? Like, what kind of things do you think they look for?

They really look for how you represent other people and not just yourself. And they want to see that you’re committed. When I went for my interview, and it was the third time they’d interviewed me, I think they gathered that I was very committed to wanting to be a School Rep.

Yeah [laughs]

I think you need to be involved with the union to be a School Rep. And to show that you are committed. And I think being a Course Rep for a year before being a School Rep is almost vital.

Cool. Thank-you!

Becky- My Time in Leeds


When you first come to uni, you feel like you’ll be there forever. 11 weeks of hungover lectures pass by slowly, Christmas comes around, and then you start to realise that your time is limited. Luckily, Leeds has more extracurricular activities, themed socials, club nights and sports to try than you could ever fit in. In my third year, I’m still walking round corners and seeing shops or bars that I’ve never noticed before, and that’s what I love about living in a city. But if you’re a country person at heart, the Dales are only a short train ride away.

Part of what attracted me personally to Leeds was its reputation for political activism. The Feminist Society, which I am a part of, successfully campaigned for the closure of a club night names Tequila last year, which made the national news. We have some one of the best unions in the country in terms of support for minority groups, with the newly introduced Liberation officers running new campaigns all year round, and we have really good services for the many students who experience mental health issues while at uni. It is also a very outward-looking campus politically; issues tackled are not just those which affect students, but national issues such as the no to TTIP protests and talks currently being held around the city.

In terms of my actual course, I switched from Philosophy and Economics to Philosophy and Politics a month into first year, realising that the fact that I kept falling asleep in Economics lectures wasn’t a good sign. I couldn’t be happier with the decision, as the course I’m now on has an amazing choice of modules and is run by two fantastic departments. Whether your interests lie in contemporary EU politics or the works of Descartes, a joint honours course can be very closely tailored to you; one of the reasons I would recommend them is that in general (in Arts subjects at least), you have fewer required modules. In first year I did two modules on the history of science, something I’d never had the chance to study before, and thoroughly enjoyed both.

One thing to bear in mind about joint honours, though, is that often you find yourself engaged in many different types of learning or styles of essay at once. This can be a hard act to juggle, but it’s very doable once you get the hang of switching, and can often provide a relief from studying the same thing all day! In my second year I took a module in Ancient Philosophy which was taught very differently to all of my other ones, which at first worried me. The idea of being prepared to do a 5 minute presentation on the seminar topic every week was scary! But I came to realise that it made me engage much more with the reading than I otherwise would have, and it ended up being one of my favourite modules. I’m now doing my dissertation on Plato’s Laws and really enjoying it.  Uni is a time to push your boundaries, so go ahead and take that module on the Philosophy of Food, join the Stage Musical society or go on a year abroad – better to try something, even if you don’t end up enjoying it, than to look back at your time at uni and wish you hadn’t spent the whole time watching Come Dine With Me. Not that there’s anything wrong with watching loads of Come Dine With Me. We are students, after all.