A way with words can net students some great prizes

7 August 2017

For those with the 'gift of the gab' public speaking comes easy, but for many of us, the thought of getting up in front of an audience leaves us in a cold, cold sweat.

For the past 23 years, ANU has partnered with the Woden Lions Club to bring the Lions Oratory competition to campus. The competition is an opportunity for ANU students to pit their oratory skills against each other to win some amazing prizes.

One of those natural story tellers was ANU College of Business and Economics students, Victor Sukeerth Munagala who took out the 2016 competition.

Victor used his personal experiences to talk about life in Syria before the Civil War.

We sat down with Victor to get some tips on what it takes to become a Lions Oratory champion (and what he did with the $2,000 prize money).

How did you choose your topic?

I decided to do it my own way. My speech was quite far removed from intellectual and it was more about conveying emotions than anything else. It made it more personal. I knew in that moment that I wanted to do something about Syria. I had lived in Syria for a bit - before the Civil War, before a lot of the stuff went down. I talked about the transformation of the meaning of community. In the past since the beginning of the civil war to the end. It was a good idea and I really loved it.

Before the Lions Oratory competition, did you feel you were a confident speaker?

Confident in my ability yet I was still nervous when I was on stage. Everyone is looking at you but it fills you with adrenaline which is a lot of fun.

What have you taken away from the experience of the competition?

I managed to see the weaknesses I had in my own public speaking abilities which was very helpful for future presentations. My competitors did a whole bunch of things I didn't know I could do while public speaking - used different languages, used a lot more imagery.

What did you do with your prize money?

I started investing my money. I also donated about $200. The rest was spent on good food that I wouldn't have usually been able to experience!

What tips do you have for the 2017 contestants?

Create a story. We're story tellers. Having a good story is always a good idea. Having all the good elements of a story that authors use: imagery, symbolism, repetition. These literary devices have a lot more power in the emotional sense than me saying a bunch of words and trying to explain them. I watched a lot of speeches in the lead up, I watched a lot of Barack Obama for inspiration.

You also need to play to your strengths a bit. Speak about something personal. When you're passionate about something, it comes out a lot more naturally and you're more human about it than you are robotic.

Would you do it again?

Definitely. I'd love to. It was so much fun. It was incredible as well - the judges that were there, the competitors had such incredible topics and ideas. They were all such brilliant public speakers.

Entries for the 2017 Lions Oratory Competition are still open. Entries close Wednesday 9 August. All you have to do is simply write in 100 words or less "the most important lesson of my life so far..."

Victor will be the MC at this year's competition finals on Wednesday 4 October from 6pm in the Finkel Theatre at JCSMR. 

ENTER NOW: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/lions2017