The President's Diary Public Speaking and Debating Academy 2022

21 Mar 2022 Melissa Collins By Melissa Collins

Greetings members, and welcome to the first President's Diary blogpost, which I hope to publish semi-regularly during my year to lead as JCI Dublin Local President

Last weekend, 12th March 2022, I had the pleasure of attending my first national JCI Ireland event in over two years, at the Prince of Wales Hotel, Athlone, where I took part in the Public Speaking and Debate Academy.

Having caught the debating bug during the fantastic European Academy in Edinburgh hosted by our tri-partite friends (and rivals in debating!), JCI Scotland, I felt it was time to support my national organisation and continue to brush up on those vital debating skills.

The debating training was delivered by Global Debating Champion Ben Hall, and his expertise certainly shone through as he gave helpful tips regarding argument, persuasion and judging scores, with the intention of getting all the participants involved at the outset, which can be daunting, but also an exciting opportunity!

There were two practice debates that were closely contested and offered each of us the chance to think on our feet, strategise and offer the valuable 'point of information'.

Throughout those practices, I felt my confidence growing more and more and felt just as able to take on the roles of the first and second speaker beyond my old reliable role of the captain.

We were also treated to a wonderful presentation by Siobhan Brennan Fitzpatrick of the Athlone Toastmasters, who encouraged us to practice, practice, practice as well as connect with the audience on a personal level with storytelling.

For the public speaking competition, there were a variety of topics to speak on, and the one that resonated with me the most was 'Feel the fear and do it anyway'.  I brought Siobhan's tips as well as my own story into the speech, which I may very well use in the future at other events, as it had a few nuggets that I was quite inspired to include.

Being candid, I was quite nervous when standing up to deliver my speech.  Bear in mind that it was the final speech, I was competing for the chance to represent JCI Ireland at the European Convention in Bruges and it was my first time delivering such a personal story in-person for so long.

So I am not the least bit disappointed, knowing that the option to try again is open to me, and we have a very worthy winner in Senator Ronan Neacy.

To say that I craved networking and connections was certainly an understatement!  Having the warmth of connection with old friends and meeting connections who had been online since the pandemic was genuinely wonderful.

We chatted over a delicious lunch kindly provided by the Prince of Wales Hotel, where there were never too many moments to laugh, joke and offer advice about the debates and speeches.

Once the winners were announced at the end of the day, with our national debating team of Lorraine, Valerie and Micheal being crowned as debating champions, we relaxed with a fabulous dinner and drinks to celebrate all the accomplishments.

If you can believe it, this trip was my first visit to Athlone, and it is always something that struck me about being a member of JCI: thanks to being a member, I am able to travel and attend events in cities and towns that I would not usually have reason to visit before, being so focused on building my career in Dublin and my heart belonging forever to Cork.

But Athlone is a gem of a town, and I would certainly recommend a visit.

The Prince of Wales is a beautiful hotel, with friendly staff and delicious food for catering as well as a spacious conference room for meetings and training.

I chose to stay in the Villa St. John B & B, a charming hostel just outside the town, where I had a very comfortable stay and a light breakfast to send me on my way each morning.  The host, Shea, gave me a very warm welcome on my check-in on Friday night, and a real sense of hospitality from start to finish.  Bonus dogs if you are a fan of animals!

On Sunday, I was able to stroll around the town before my train home in the afternoon, and it has been an intention of mine to support Irish-owned businesses whenever and wherever I can.  I spotted a charming restaurant, the Craft Bistro and stepped in for a tasty brown club sandwich and Americano, which set me up for the rest of my travels.  I would definitely recommend the cafe for breakfast and lunch options, which all looked so tempting!

All and all, I had a wonderful visit to Athlone and a fantastic time at the Public Speaking and Debate Academy.  Thank you to Aine McManamon and Louise Lally for your brilliant organising, to Ben Hall for the practical debate advice and Siobhan Brennan Fitzpatrick for bringing the wisdom and insights of public speaking to us as members.  

Some final reflections: while I felt sad to leave and say goodbye to friends new and old, events must come to an end.

As we each wished each other well, there was a real sense of pride and accomplishment in what we were able to do as an organisation: to come together, work together and support each other together.  That to me is the strength of JCI Ireland and something that I hope to foster during my one year to lead as President.

Thank you for reading and I hope that by sharing my story, it brings to life what it truly means to be a JCI Dublin and JCI Ireland member, with all the fantastic events to be shared in.

Warm regards,

Melissa Collins
JCI Dublin Local President 2022